Jeff Oaks



Morning Lines

The mantis waits, a blade of grass with eyes.

The second line is always harder, love,

and then the days that follow full of words

who could have predicted? The blue I thought

you loved you didn’t, the thought you tried to finish

that haunted both of us for weeks. Among

the gladioli trembling when the breeze

sets things trembling, the mantis takes a step,

an easy gesture to miss, even with

its prey’s tense complicated eyes in which

a world of nerves, a shadow garden moves,

in flower beds, whatever we planted.



Saint Wrench

The more you see a thing the less you see it, the more it quiets into a minor
character, an unnamed member of the Greek chorus as it turns and counter-
turns, while you soliloquize in the bathroom over the broken toilet seat about
your own helplessness. Your own face alights on itself as the bowl refills,
sighs, stops quivering. Here is the moment a hero is made, you think.

It is possible to imagine that the name Christ written in the sand by the first
nervous devotees was not a fish but a wrench, a single form drop-forged,
capable of removing bent nails from good wood, of turning suddenly the
water back on after days of drought and renovation.

In the wrench’s slippery eye the universe revolves around the earth. It
doesn’t recognize Galileo’s cosmology as weight-bearing. A wrench dreams
of holding and being held, of being the instrument by which things are made
to turn, until everything is adjusted. It doesn’t sing. It makes a minor silver
clink. Opened, it’s Hathor, the old moon goddess, her glittering horns.

Each face is made up of a pair of minor faces, one that angles up, one that
looks down its nose. Forced together they grow hungry for something to talk
about. They will latch onto anything. Your fingernails, for instance. Your
teeth. Anything to make you start.



Jeff Oaks is the author of three chapbooks, most recently Shift (Seven Kitchens Press, 2010). He has published poems in Court Green, Bloom, Ploughshares, Seneca Review, 5 a.m., and other literary magazines. A recipient of three Pennsylvania Council of the Arts fellowships, he teaches creative writing at the University of Pittsburgh.