"The Waterboard," "Ten of Wands," and "Alibi"

The Waterboard

Supersleuth hauls her perp to justice. “Deal
with this creep, please,” she petitions. Justice’s
Honor personified gavels vaguely & rules, “I’m blind.”

Voir dire: the perp’s prospective jury peers
into pitiless glare. A few bewilder & disorient much
to the satisfaction of arcane adversarial
criteria. Those peremptorily-
challenged wither away.

Sleuth unpacks 37 facts that warrant. The facts
blink in this entirely different light. They maladjust
helplessly to formal garb, can’t get it straight. Failing
to add up, they divide & multiply.

Impaneled, one victim was, behind a jam closet,
baffled in hair & fingernails. Supersleuth mounts
grisly forensics upon the alleged perp’s alibi’s
lively (however badly badgered) eyewitness account

until (however offended) the peace-&-dignity-
of-the-state timely recesses.
Retire all: disrobe to squeak one another clean in chambers.

Downstreet, Supersleuth irritably dismembers
the collegiality of the bar. Commiserates
a crony: “Time was we could torch
miscreants alive, or, better yet, a ducking:
acquit (if any) innocents by drowning.”



Ten of Wands

Rider Tarot deck, 1910


Convicted to hard labor, he reconstructs
as-he-goes his useless cell. He must reckon how
to get away with it, hide his own sight
from the blooming knobs the bars
& their interstices sprout.

He toils among his victims’ eyes. Blink
me, I’ll cry. Rolls out of every bed to his same
sticky breakfast, morning
paperworks slathering blood & jam.

He may peek only between his fingers & pry,
or suck them or gnaw the knuckles, his borne
bundle of ten, two numb
hamfists to spread wriggly & fan apart,
count up the digits again.




I’m neither here
nor there nor ever was. I dwell
among four flagstones & bustle
a whiskbroom around gray
areas. A dog
might happen by to walk.
Tinkly bell sometimes.

Nobody knows where they were
any such day, night, or why. I summon the high
literature of motiveless malignity.
Six succulent
cheap thrills on a doily, rearranged.

You really don’t
be wanting me to get bored.
Recite me your story to slip my tight little fuss in.
Wind it up with your key.
Chatter & chime.
I’ll pop out of your clock when it’s time.



Martha Zweig

Martha Zweig’s four full-length poetry collections include Get Lost, Monkey Lightning, What Kind, and Vinegar Bone; a current manuscript is circulating. Her chapbooks are Powers and A Skirmish of Harks (e-book). Zweig’s poems appear widely; her recognitions include Hopwood Awards, a Whiting Award, Pushcart and Best-of-the-Net nominations, plus a Warren Wilson MFA. She lives in Vermont where she worked ten years as an advocate for seniors, following another ten years handling garments in a pajama factory where she served a term as ILGWU shop chair. Martha recommends Jewish Voice for Peace.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Wednesday, November 15, 2023 - 21:38