when i read at sappho’s
last week my lower left jaw
was packed with cotton wool
to stop a broken tooth from tearing
at my ulcerated tongue the poems
were saved from humiliation but i felt
like a criminal secreting contraband
goods across the border it was a relief
to replace the soggy wad with stuffed
olives and other assorted soft and salty
tapas when i exited the microphone’s
topography the time before at sappho’s
i had read as one of ern malley’s cousins:
sylvia or ethelred or both – next time i might
read as the cumaean sibyl pulling rabbits out
of a flarfable hat, and waving to jann harry
winking above the palms like a cabaret star ~



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joanne burns is the author of a dozen collections of poetry. Her most recent collection, brush, was published by Giramondo Publishing in 2014. She has been a teacher of English and creative writing and has been performing her work since the 1970s.

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