Endowed in perpetuity by the Glenna Luschei Fund for Excellence

The Veneer

The Veneer

By Ira Sadoff

When I think of veneer, a surface or facade,
I think of the peeling panel on her old bathroom door,
how you could look in as she doused herself with a sponge,
the old train station in Los Angeles, police sweeps

through the skeletal remains of 5 and 10's
(how far apart we are, the private and public sectors)
and closer to home, I watched her forge her lipstick,
shaking before she goes out, rehearsing in the mirror,

assembling the costume she's seen in a department store –
and you know what we think of mannequins –
wondering if she'll make it through the evening downing valium
and Manhattans, the actress carting around her character,

where some fragment, some broken sliver of her
is lodged in her finger, a lipstick smudge, a little blood trickling out.
And I might even shift in my seat a little,
knowing how my face absorbs and refracts that light,

and as the camera pans in on the closer yet,
the distance between the surface of that
undeveloped adolescent face and what it feels like to me,
seems abysmal, knowing her doctor said Psychosis is personal,

how her hand shaking becomes way too personal
as she puts on a string of pearls of water, flour and paste
I made for her, because we've taken a wrong turn somewhere,
(because the "good providers" of the fifties

have driven to the end of the century)
and now I remember the story of my great aunt,
ferreting through the debris of her bombed-out
Warsaw apartment, searching for her dead husband,

hauling on her back a hardback chair, a vanity of oak veneer.

Prairie Schooner, Vol. 71, No. 1, Jewish-American Writers (Spring 1997), pp. 79-80


Ira Sadoff

Ira Sadoff's most recent book of poems is True Faith (BOA Editions). In 2014, Carnegie-Mellon reprinted Palm Reading in Winter as part of the Contemporary Classics Series.

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