Green Hills Literary Lantern



After My Friend Read Us “Why I Hate Gristedes,”

Which is Really an HIV-Coming-Out Poem



(first published in Juked)

I realize my reasons for hating Gristedes are chump change

compared to my friend Graham’s, since he happened to get

the call in a Gristedes in the city. What I’m trying to say

is that when Graham read that poem in our Thursday night

workshop, we were forced to see him as maybe not so peaceful,

upbeat, or willfully obscure as our teacher had branded

him. What I mean, I guess, is nothing about his poem

that night was willfully obscure, although I desperately wanted

it to be his friend’s point of view and Graham just the other guy

sitting on the opposite end of the couch watching The Sopranos

and wishing his friend hadn’t gotten the call at Gristedes. But the air

circulating in the few empty spaces left in that West Village studio

told us that this was his poem, his virus, his moment, which we all

had to get over in 5, 4, 3, 2… “What is working best in this poem?”

And there we clung to line and syntax like some kind of white sheet

dangling from a burning window that we’d all climb down and give

the thumbs up when our feet hit the ground, while our friend

screamed inside, licked by flames.  




Directives for Temptation


You must put it out of your mind

as impossible, like the stuffed animal

in the claw machine at the mall. No one

ever wins, but if by some happenstance

of gravity, timing, and luck, that orange

octopus slides into the three-pronged hand

and manages to stay all the way

to the exit trap then falls into your cupped

palms, matted like the neighbor’s cat

and as dusty as the candy on the back

shelf of the all-night pharmacy, that sea

creature will either be the grandest

specimen you’ve ever procured

or a grotesqueness beyond your tar dark

dreams, even while its fur tickles and warms

your face as you carry it home.



Marcia LeBeau's work has appeared in Rattle, Moon City Review, SLANT, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in poetry from the Vermont College of Fine Arts and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She lives in South Orange, NJ.