Squirrel Hill

“…Now that my ladder’s gone, I must lie down where all the ladders start, In the foul rag-and-bone shop of the heart. ”
            — W.B. Yeats, The Circus Animals’ Desertion
Eyes of the author.

Arlene Weiner

PHOTO: Arlene Weiner

Arlene Weiner is the author of three poetry collections: More, (Ragged Sky, 2022), City Bird (Ragged Sky, 2016) and Escape Velocity (Ragged Sky, 2006), of which Poet Joy Katz wrote, “I want to keep my favorite of these beautifully alert, surprising poems with me as I grow old.” A MacDowell Colony fellow in 2008, Arlene has been a Shakespeare scholar, a cardiology technician, a college instructor, an editor, and a research associate in educational applications of cognitive science. Her poetry has been published in journals including Off the Coast, Pleiades, Poet Lore, and U.S. 1 Worksheets, anthologized, and read by Garrison Keillor on his Writer’s Almanac. She also writes plays. Her play Findings was produced by Pittsburgh Playwrights Company in March 2017.

  • Outplacement
  • Cancellation
  • First Meeting: Pedagogical Theories

  • Outplacement

    When they calculate the grease
    is running low
    and they put you out on a floe
    with a purse of dried codfish and an oar

    do not by any means row for the shore
    paddling to decrease
    the black water between you,
    or watch in hope that a leopard seal,

    attracted to their store, consume them.
    Build a small fire, make fishhooks,
    raise your one sealskin as a sail.
    Fix on the horizon. Keep warm. Move on.

    Published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and in Escape Velocity (Ragged Sky Press, 2006).


    Dear Sir or Madam:
    I seem inadvertently to have signed up
    or been signed up for the Death of the Month Club
    and the deaths have been coming so frequently
    that I haven't had time to say, Stop.
    I now have more than enough deaths
    to last my lifetime and can give scant attention
    even to the important deaths that everyone's talking about,
    the deaths long-awaited or overnight sensations,
    precocious deaths. In the past
    when the rubber tree relinquished its leaves
    one by one, or a friend's dog died,
    I gave them serious consideration,
    but I was young then, warm enough, and had hammock time
    for melancholy wisdom. So dear, dear Sir,
    merciful Madam, I hope you will agree
    to stop my subscription, and if I have accrued
    any bonus points, and you allow substitutes,
    please send me instead preserves and tropical fruits.

    Published in Escape Velocity (Ragged Sky Press, 2006) and Thatchwork, Delaware Valley Poets.

    First Meeting: Pedagogical Theories

    Jupiter has assigned you thirty stones.
    If you can lift them, so strain and heft
    over your shoulder as to make them men,
    the barren world will be populous again.

    They hunch, daring me to give birth to them.

    Twenty pale faces; for my coup stick
    I must lift their scalps.

    Hardy bulbs heeled in, needing chill
    and warmth; predestinate; you can kill
    but never alter the determined flower.

    A mass of doughy innocence. Its yeast
    requires kneading and heat to be released.

    A spark leaps over a gap, and the air changes.
    Electrifying. Electrodes prepared by friction.

    Here are the hundred keys to the thousand rooms.
    Here is the book: A Manual of Keymaking.
    Here, finally, fire to burn the keep.
    The fire will last as long as the walls to feed it.

    Published in U.S. 1 Worksheets.