local_library PMS AT 45

by Susan Rothbard

Published in Issue No. 141 ~ February, 2009

An excuse for everything from murder

to spontaneous weeping, it comes

with circadian precision. In her

younger days, she didn’t mind so much. Numbed

by the reminder of what she could make,

she felt ripe, poised on the edge of something big.

But lately, the animal within shakes

the bars, picks at the lock, tries to dig

its way out. She will never be pregnant

again, so what is the point? Let it go.

At night, when something clamors in her chest,

let it be her heart, not this bird trapped in its nest.


How much easier to live alone,

unfettered by people, surrounded by things

you choose. What you need is what you own.

Get rid of plants, whatever dies, and yes, the phone

book goes. How good it feels to lose the ring.

How much easier. To live alone,

though, takes courage, a nod to what you know

about yourself, which, you fear, is nothing.

You choose. What you need is what you own

up to wanting, and if you have to ask someone

else, you’ll never know when to leave, what to bring.

How much easier to live alone

if no one’s left behind when you’re gone,

it’s true. But still, it’s you who clings.

You choose what you need. Is what you own

now enough? Then why not get it done

already? Or else admit this song you sing

is easier, and live with it. Alone,

you choose what you need, what’s your own.


Jesus walks into a bar and orders a beer.

He sits on a stool, sipping the foam

off the top. He’s in no rush to finish,

and the bartender is uncomfortable –

he can’t ignore the stigmata or the fact

that Jesus wears nothing but a loincloth.

He recognizes Jesus, the way we recognize

celebrities everywhere, but he doesn’t want

to act like a groupie. He plays it cool, starts

a tab for Jesus, his way of letting him know

he’s welcome. Jesus orders a second beer.

It’s getting late now, and the regulars

begin to crowd the bar. Soon Jesus is lost

in the fabric of Happy Hour, and the bartender

has to attend to the rest of the customers.

It isn’t until after midnight that he notices

the girl sitting next to Jesus. She’s been here

before, decked out in sequins and spandex,

but tonight, Jesus is buying her drinks.

The bartender wonders if Jesus knows

what he’s getting himself into, but then

he figures that after all he’s been through,

Jesus deserves a break. The girl takes a mirror

out of her bag and checks her makeup.

Jesus, who has never seen a mirror, is fascinated.

He takes it, stares at his reflection, the face

we all know, and wonders how it got there.

He doesn’t notice that all the other men wear

jackets and ties, but when the girl hikes up her dress

to adjust her stockings, he catches a glimpse

of thigh, remembers what it’s like to be a man.

account_box More About

Susan Rothbard's poems have appeared in the Paterson Literary Review, The Comstock Review, English Journal, Dogwood, and Spindrift. She earned her MFA degree in creative writing at Fairleigh Dickinson University and teaches English and creative writing at Livingston High School in Livingston, New Jersey.