Adrienne Raphel

Adrienne Raphel

But What Will We Do, and other poems


But what will we do when the rain doesn't come
All of us waiting in everyday slippers
The sidewalk is soaked and there's nothing to do
Have you turned off the invisible fence

But what will we do with our pink lemonade
When the trucks double-parked get cracked in the mud
The gravestones with headlines and golf balls
I like to go into the soggy weird leafmeal

          Singles on a mixed bench,
          Pockets on the sly,
          Force and Wendy Blackbird
          Basking out to dry;
          Wendy's eye was open,
          Burst into a ring,
          Waste not want not, deign to dish,
          Waste not, want not, deign.

What will this all be before it's the calendar
The walker scrapes loud in the swollen dark hallway
Your feet are so swollen your ankles are gone
What will we do with the light in the freezer

What will the soil so sorry the soil
Once you find where it opens, it's well nigh on time
Upturn the mulcher, the mulch here is darker
The cedar goes plush in the tangled-up weather

But what will we do with magnificent playbills
We live for the weather we drive through the trees
But where are the trees with electrical sockets
Where are the laws with the thermostat timers

          Hum Peter, Dumb Peter,
          Saturnine ball
          Hung patterns, dumped matins,
          Haddocks and all;
          Awful at ping-pong,
          He'll soon make amends,
          Good riddance to Peter,
          Play tennis again.

Why are you working the lights aren't up yet
Where are they going the crumpled-out faces
Hey trolly lolly hey nonny nay
I'm not going anywhere everything is on sale

The tree thick with chirping without any sparrows
The church full of honking without any geese
Duck-yellow lemon-yellow gray-yellow gosling
Things getting closer I'll turn on the heat

          Here's the old riddle,
          Scatter the vittles,
          Cowards junked up the old moon;
          Thucydides left to the sea full of port
          And we splashed him away with our spoons.

The heat it turns out has been on the whole time
What will we do when the pipes are all hissing
What will we do when the piper starts hissing
Don't let the rats come it's not time to start that

Spit in the sink and wash it down clockwise
Which way does a drain go in this hemisphere
I need a new watch but I don't really need one
What is the ratio of stars to rats

Are you okay, are you, are you, okay
Are you hello will they take down the birds
Five for ten dollars for all of these flashlights
All on the Boardwalk where are their shills

          Freckle-faced, mop it,
          Spit on the war
          Curse Eden in curses-slurred spray;
          A long-handled spider
          Climbed down her ladder,
          And met us almost halfway.


Driving home from the eye doctor, I see so clearly.
This little island has got so crowded,
I have to stand in line at the pharmacy.
The swans are standing in their line
Waiting to pay for their pills.
I don't live here anymore.
I live on Little Bokeelia Island.
The cat has died and it has come back to live with me.
The cat's name is Lime Drink. I used to drive
The tunnel home. I drove at night.
I drove day and night. Day and night have got
So crowded. The only time that's worth it
Is between A and A. I used to need two keys to unlock
But now I have a doorbell. Do you?
Look, that's me in knickerbockers.
The frozen bay is the color of old film and Werther's.
There could be blocks of ice.
                    The other thing I do is. . .
I did the jumble two ways and both ways were right.
Jeopardy is still on at the same time offshore.
All the channels are the same except in the two hundreds.
Five years of Lorna Doones on the shelf,
Getting more expensive the sooner they expire.



There are several ways down the mountain but only one way to go down them. Every skier shaves a modicum of snow off the face of the mountain, so the trails with the most enthusiasts are razed to blue ice in hours. Skis will go on ice, but will not turn without texture for the edges to grip. Sometimes, when the snow is too man-made, the granular crystals underneath make skis wobble.

The skis are neon yellow on the bottom. When you drop them on the snow, they hover half an inch above the ground. In the reflection, the snow glows citron. Skis are cumbersome to travel with, requiring steady shoulders and a car, but once there is a mountain that has been carved for them, with chairs to the top, skiing is the most efficient thing.

When the end of the slope comes, the skis are bulky again. Everybody occupies a slightly longer horizontal space. On the way up, skis dangle above the snow. There are always things in the trees – Mardi Gras beads, bras – once I saw a porcupine – and one time, a man riding the chairlift down the mountain, in brown leather boots, implacable hands folded across his chest with all of his satisfaction.


Listless little Lena
Looping long along
Lisping lilting Thumbelina
Making up this song

          Say ditty in the Laundromat
          Say ditty in the square
          A quarter for the auto
          But the automat's not there

The stairwell's full of fishes now
It's gone aquarium
The house is granting wishes now
But Lena, Lena's numb

          Floating up the water's fine
          Milk teeth coming loose
          Lichens on the boulevard
          Feathers in the sluice

Silver fish in shiny bells
Say Lena, Lena, Lena, Lena
Streets are singeing all in bells
The house is drifting Lena

          Fill the coins with even more coins
          Flush the sand with pink
          Flicker in the motorcade
          Pull the other chain

Sink of Lena in the moon
How far is she bouncing
Lena, Lena's bouncing home
Everybody's watching

          Tumble doorknobs down the street
          Three-story parade
          Cascade of Lena all her feet
          Is this the last parade

ADRIENNE RAPHEL is a graduate of the Iowa Writers Workshop and currently studies at Harvard. Her writing can be found in such places as petri press, LVNG, and The Volta. She also edits fiction and nonfiction for Brigantine Media. The poems "Skis" and "Glockenspiel" above have previously appeared in The Dudley Review, a Harvard campus publication.