Statement of Record

Four poems by Terese Svoboda


Four poems by Terese Svoboda


From the collection Theatrix: Poetry Plays
Published by Anhinga Press


HBO’S Chernobyl

I want this to scare you [your eyes so delicately aspic, watching].
Only one on the bridge lives.

The dog cringes from the resignation floating grayly down.
[Which rhymes with nation]. Self-interest, a flood of it.

The curtains keep fluttering.

If the rhino [not the elephant] stalwart in the absurdist room
packed with isotopes guarded by men full of flesh and blood

withholds catharsis, so be it. Laugh, but someone
has to wonder, someone with the iambs to put out flames

or the leisure [no, the terror] to compose the bridge

thirty years later. The spectators do not yell
as if a war [or even a holiday] beckoned.

That cat on the couch? The bird twitchy on the pavement
after the school-bound kids chase off-screen?

No animal was injured in the making of the media,

and no farmer refused to harvest Ukraine’s wheat.
Knowledge was eaten, [a plume of it]

and all the rain there is cannot quench the truth,

nor evacuate it Man imagines this [and this
comes about]. The brain folds – ask the media.



The Cast

The old comedienne moves her mouth, she does her stretches, her deadpan-without-so-much-as-a-twitch, and she times it. [It’s all about timing]. Old means she’s timed a lot [she may have timed out]. She always wakes early with perfectly useable patter that doesn’t have a story behind it. An existential joke, tailless they call it in the business.

The old comedienne doesn’t drink her tea, her wiring’s following the patter with her mouth [but not aloud]. She’s slinking in a doorway when the joke comes to her, she’s ready to deliver, she looks into the street and waves

to a man whose arm is in a cast, visible only at the cuff line and the stiff way he holds his arm across his chest. Why did the man cross the street, she calls out.

He veers. I’m an old comedienne, she says. Stand-up never paid.

He pats her on the head [this is not condescending, given that it’s the hand sticking out of the cast, and he’s very tall]. I’m walking into a bar, he says.

She doesn’t even know how to make coffee, let alone a martini, which he thinks is another joke until she offers him tea.

[Offer him me? she’s thinking]. The cast, after the coat is off, has no signatures on it — maybe he has no friends? No love life at all?

He sits on her pull-out bed. [If she kept a doily to reinforce its couch-like appearance, no one would know it pulled out at all]. She tells a tailless joke. There was a Jewish pope, she starts. You’re not Jewish? she says. That’s part of the patter. Nobody ever admits to being Jewish, they want to hear the joke. [She straightens her skirt].

[The man is already smiling]. He guesses the punch line and opens his palm in a ha-ha way, the palm that sticks out of the end of the cast. My arm, he says, and shakes it while he describes flying through the air after being shot out of a cannon. You know the phrase cannon fodder?

He forgets how it happened, paying somebody sixty dollars to stuff him into this cannon — him, the claustrophobic, the too-many-margaritas and the cash already bet. He says he can show her the burns but he would have to take off his clothes.

She sighs. [Always the competition]. Sex and death are my two best subjects, she says. She tells him with death you can do it alone and nobody laughs at you.

He saucers his cup. He’s a man of the street and its crossing, he’s a chrysalis and inside the cast is a new man.

[Then he’s late].

As he makes his way out, he thinks of chickens, not having laid her. She [in the existential tailless way of daily life] works out another joke, this one about time, the least funny subject.



Silverware Dialogue

A fork and a spoon lie together
to spoon and to fork.

E = MC2 says the spoon.
I don’t have the energy says the fork.

Forgiveness? says the spoon.
It is as if we lie on a vast table

says the fork. Useless.
The spoon measures a dose.

Sink to your knees. The fork
submits. [The past is prescient.]

The spoon clasps the fork.
Of course, says the spoon,

it’s all about portion control.
Let’s sleep says the fork.

Weep? the spoon says.
The spoon is sorry too, like the song.

Make me toast says the fork, and snappy.
The spoon says, Who turned on

the lights? Birds begin singing
their favorite: O moon, O moon.

The table was laid, says the spoon,
not me. Tines, my dear, are everything,

says the fork. My tines are retired.
They spoon through course

after intercourse, the hunger being incurable, inconsolable.



Writer Doesn’t Mention the Trap Door

FIRST ACTOR: Turn up the kliegs!

SECOND ACTOR: Don’t call me actress. Beatrice is good. You called the last one Penelope. Penny in the plea-bargain scene. Cheap.

FIRST ACTOR: Look, if someone’s looking for me, are they going to yell First Actor? Ben is better. But better if we don’t alliterate. Beatrice, Ben? No gravitas, no gravy.

BEATRICE: But it’s Dantesque: lost in the woods because of me. Not the plea bargain. On second thought, call me Ishmael. Or even Cheryl.

BEN: The waves plunge us deeper. Hang on!

BEATRICE: Ham, it has to be ham. That’s a nice Biblical name.

BEN: Impugning me? Or – actor eats a ham sandwich before the plea-bargain? Remember, I’m observant, vegan, low salt, no gluten.

BEATRICE: Stick to the script. Literally, like, duct tape. I have a babysitter and she goes home in an hour.

BEN: Lost in space. I can do that.

BEATRICE: The bassinet in the living room, the sadness and anger of maternity, not to mention the trap door.

BEN: Oops.

BEATRICE: Only four more lines. Nobody liked Ben anyway.

WRITER: She follows him everywhere.



“Silverware Dialogue” originally appeared in Swwim.
Click here to read a review of Theatrix: Poetry Plays by Dawn Raffel
Author page at Anhinga Press
Additional works of poetry recently published by Statorec can be found here

About the author

Theatrix: Poetry Plays (Anhinga) is Terese Svoboda’s eighth book of poetry. Her poetry has been published in the Paris Review, New Yorker, Atlantic, Nation, Lana Turner Journal, Volt, Narrative, New York Times, and many other magazines. She is also the author of seven books of fiction, a memoir, a biography, and a book of translation.

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