Apple Valley Review:
A Journal of Contemporary
Volume 14, Number 2
Copyright © 2019
by Leah Browning, Editor.
All future rights to material
published in the Apple
Valley Review are retained
by the individual authors
by Gary Duehr
So have you heard the one
About the older woman and the nun?
One afternoon they meet
On the sidewalk of a busy street.
The nun is bending down
To help the woman, who’s fallen to the ground.
Her bloodied head is resting on a shopping bag.
All time has stopped; there’s a lag
While bystanders stand by:
A student, a young girl, some office workers; every eye
Is focused on the accident.
They’re so composed, so still; it’s like an incident
From a foreign movie by Renais
Or Antonioni—the way
A tragedy, out of nowhere, can interrupt
An ordinary day. It’s that abrupt.
And have we seen this cast before?
A victim, a nun or cop, the ballet corps
Who pivot on the spot to wonder why?
Remember how Roberto Casso
Describes the many lives and deaths amidst the flow
Of myth, and yet a novel’s character
Gets a single gesture.
As do we. See how the injured woman’s white glove
Is curled up on her chest, as the nun looks on above.
by Gary Duehr
So what is black and white
Walking down the street? That’s right—
Two nuns in their habits. It’s all geometry:
Between their arms, a V
Is echoed by the angle of the crutches
Of the woman with a bandaged foot, which is
Balanced on its heel.
The whole thing seems unreal.
Is there a hidden story here or not?
Perhaps a parody, somewhat, of Some Like It Hot.
There is a folded note
Clutched in the taller sister’s hand; behind her, in a winter coat,
A man is sneezing in a Kleenex,
As if her piece of paper, through cinematic special effects,
Has blown up in his face. What does this scene
With all its chaos, mean?
Where is the focus, the protagonist?
And which are minor players who exist
For local color or to lend an ear?
Let’s put the blame on the photographer, whose burden
Is to see obsessively, even when uncertain
What the outcome is.
For instance, this random street shot like a pop quiz.
Gary Duehr has taught poetry and writing for institutions
including Boston University, Lesley University, and Tufts
University. His MFA is from the University of Iowa Writers
Workshop. In 2001 he received an NEA Poetry Fellowship,
and he has also received grants and fellowships from the
Massachusetts Cultural Council, the LEF Foundation, and the
Rockefeller Foundation. Duehr’s poetry has appeared in
Agni, American Literary Review, Chiron Review,
Cottonwood, Hawaii Review, Hotel Amerika, Iowa
Review, North American Review, Southern Poetry Review,
and elsewhere. He is also the author of several books of
poetry including In Passing, published by Grisaille Press in
2011, and THE BIG BOOK OF WHY, published by Cobble
Hill Books in 2008.
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