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M. C. Allan


Businessman in a clot-red shirt
sprawls in a banquette at the airport bar,
tells his buddy about a wine
he drank last trip,
grapes from a vine
watered by a tear
leaked from the eye of Christ.
So I got that going for me, which is nice.
Smirks his lips in memory.

Look at these monkeys in suits and skirts,
pressed and polished uniforms!
Past the bar the pilots move as one,
gliding past security gates.
If He was one of us a while,
a naked ape trussed up in robes,
then he was bound
to climb back up that tree.

The president onscreen behind the bar,
believes in Him, believes, too,
in the art of the tithe.
grunts cast onto the plate,
Arkansas and Detroit boys
shined up bright and chucked in hard
so God can hear them scatter,
the generous clatter of the prodigal son.
But he don’t drink no more,
no matter how straight the wine comes
from those sad puppy-dog eyes,

so if you want to share this red,
take a sponge and soak it well
to wet the pilot’s lips—
He needs the drink.
He’s the one who has to keep
flying back and forth,
the Rockies in the middle
like the seam over a jury-rigged heart,

great metered fields of corn and soy,
clapboard houses where women still
pin empty shirts to a line
and make the kids
hold hands to say the evening’s grace.

To Top



Outside the circle of fire and boozy flesh
young diplomats and their wives
dancing and kissing on a shore
safe then for their kind—
the moon rose over the Arabian sea
seeming another fire, but cool,
calling to the ones beneath the sand—
not the lobsters, dead beyond its summons,
embracing smoldering stones
and pinking up under heaps of steaming seaweed—

but lower still, the turtles nipping
at walls of leathery shell, pushing
up through the terrible weight of sand
to find the beach and beyond, the sea
shining under that pale shellac of moon.
Outside the circle of the fire
the pie dogs weaved in watchful
darting forwards to snap up scraps of chicken.

When the moon calls, it sounds
deep in the flesh, beyond
thinking. Two people—in minutes,
they would be my parents—in its pull
stumbled happy towards the beach huts,
their mouths loose with beer and kissing,
deaf to the cries of others on the sand
watching the turtles scramble toward the light.
No one could hear a single cell
dividing. What the others saw
was the dogs in the light of moon and fire
bounding towards the waves and the turtles,

crunching them like biscuits in their mouths
a breath away from safety in the sea.


To Top


They are moving out today,
the couple down the hall,
who kept us up with their screaming.
She is a flirt; he a tyrant;
we know; we have overheard.
And when they forgave each other
they kept us awake
with their forgiveness: never
has the giving over of anger
been done so loudly, with such
banging of walls—once,
the pressed wedding flowers
in the frame above our bed
leaped onto us in the night.
Now, they cross the street
one then the other, carrying boxes,
scratched bentwood chairs, a shedding fern to the truck.
And then together, hobbling,
bearing low between them like a body
an enormous mirror.
For a moment,
we who watch their departure
with such gratitude catch our own
down turned faces out of our windows,
a gray burst of pigeon from a higher ledge,
the cool slate sky past our jutting heads
the slim slice of a plane’s trail
dividing the sky in two.
in that glass has any sound.

In the seconds
after the truck pulls away towards U Street,
we come piling out of their mirror
to crowd the wall of the truck’s cabin
to press our ears there
and wait for them to speak.

About the Poet
M. C. Allan was born in Pakistan and has lived in Taiwan, Holland, Australia, and the United Kingdom; she now resides in exotic Takoma Park, Maryland, with her husband, food writer Tim Carman, and their fat beagle mix. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in the Virginia Quarterly Review (VQR), Iron Horse Literary Review, Potomac Review, and others; work is forthcoming in Tar River Poetry and Poet Lore. She is a graduate of Hollins University’s creative writing program.