Sharon Chmielarz

listen and read

In conversation with Gertrude Stein

What I read into the sentence
is my fantasy:
I’m watching Alice B. Toklas
serve Eiskaffee for tea.

She holds the tray
for Gertrude Stein,
Fernande Olivier,
and last, for me.

Fernande’s titters
as she glances at my ankles
close together make me wonder
who she is.

Gertrude Stein intercepts
the thought, explains
how Fernande is close
to Picasso and moves on
to talk of cars. Fords.

Don’t ever, she advises
learn reverse.
Just get the stick
out of diddle and dawdle
and slip into third.

I don’t like the lurch
says Alice as Fernande
licks whipped cream
from the corners of her lips.

I take another cookie—
they’re superb, but crumbly.
I brush off my chest. Crumbs
fly all over the page.

Alice fades, looking spotty.
I have to leave, a little early.
And the other two agree,
yes, I really must go home.

from Different Arrangements, New Rivers Press