Three Poems ~ Allison Joseph

Game of Life

Little blue pegs for boys, little pink pegs for girls—
load up your plastic car with pretend children
and off you go—everything dependent on the game’s

flimsy wheel and knob spinner that flicked
off the spaces to move ahead or back, college
in your future or not, all of us lusting to land

on those payday squares. Oh that lovely fake
money that bought us fake houses with fake
garages for our little plastic car full of our ugly

plastic peg-children we never bothered to name.
I can’t remember learning any valuable lesson
from this game—no greed like Monopoly,

no steady hands like Operation, no longing
for a cardboard dude behind a Mystery Date
door. We played on rainy afternoons in someone’s

mama’s basement, or heat-dazed in summer
camp when counselors grew sick of our slack
faces, whiny demands. But now I know

it prepped me for all this: irrational deeds
and wicked turns, fickle fortunes and
so many narrow paths to navigate, all

the permutations of ugly luck and bankruptcy.
Some days I wish it were as easy as spinning
again then moving ahead those necessary

spaces, reading the fine print of wherever
I end up, directions printed on the inside
of the box it all came in, all the pieces
settled back inside once my game is done.

Nothing Quite Like It

There’s nothing quite like losing
to make you feel alive
that ripening called bruising
the way you’ve failed to thrive

to make you feel alive
to crack your self-esteem
the way you’ve failed to thrive
no suit, no shoes, no team

to crack your self-esteem
there’s nothing like a loss
no suit, no shoes, no team
can mitigate that cost

there’s nothing like a loss
to wreck you back to life
can’t mitigate the cost
of all that strident strife

to wreck you back to life
to breathe you into doubt
and all that strident strife
you won’t be letting out

to breathe you into doubt
that ripening called bruising
you won’t be getting out
of all you know of losing

In Praise of Resting Bitch Face

Oasis in a sea of crazy,
my face does not betray me.
Discomfort in my mind
not revealed by my features,
expressionless rage my forte.

Paragon of passive anger,
epic oxymoron. No tics
for you to read me by,
no access to my secrets
through any smile or smirk,

grin or blush. Solemn
column, no sweetness for you
to turn to weakness, no
vulnerable spike in heart
rate or breathing. You

will not defeat me, cara mia,
with your questions, loaded
queries that leave me weary.
This face will not reveal
unto you what which you

want it to—will not give you
the time of day, week, or year,
will not rage for your catharsis.
I am not your vessel, your
heartache, your chalice

at the altar rail. You will
not drink from me, so seek
salvation elsewhere—access
denied to this brow, this stage
this platform free of any revelation.