LOL / The Desire for Revenge / Earthly Paradise – by ANNE WHITEHOUSE

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She signs her texts and emails

Laughing Out Loud

but inside she is crying,

slowly dissolving herself

into a thinner and thinner shell

riddled with hairline cracks.


I worry she will desiccate, disintegrate.

I pray that day doesn’t come.

Every time I read

a text of hers with that phrase,

I am consumed by dread.




Inside the desire for revenge

is a painful vulnerability,

a reminder of damage that won’t leave,


and you wish for satisfaction,

or just acknowledgment of the wrong.

Instead, frustration grows with denial,


and suffering returns in intensity,

as if time had scarcely elapsed.

Better not to ask for what won’t be given,


even for a great sin or terrible crime.

When at last you realize the hurt

the hope for revenge still causes you,


you can start to let go. Not acceptance,

but resignation, so unhealed wounds

may close over at last and scar.



“…in dreaming,

The clouds methought would open and show riches

Ready to drop upon me that, when I waked,

I cried to dream again.”

                                                                       -Shakespeare, The Tempest, III, ii, 140-3.


A waterfall for every day of the year

and the water so clean I could drink

from everywhere I saw it flowing.

Mountains and ravines, a tangle

of vegetation, blue and green.


Night and day the surf beat

against the rocky shores,

and the forest was full of sounds—

leaves rustling and the sweet song

of the mountain nightingale,

an elusive bird nesting

in the hollow trunks of trees.


In the lowlands, near the river,

grapefruit hung from the trees

like golden suns,

and a young woman,

her skirt hiked above her knees,

bare-breasted, stood in the shallow river

where it ran over rocks,

washing her clothes.


It could have been a scene

from a pastoral idyll of long ago—

that perhaps never existed,

a dream of someone’s life.


Into that life came a storm

that took everything away.

The woman I’d seen placidly washing

her clothes in a green dream

lost the blue house on the hillside

built by her husband—

all they had worked and strived for

washed away in the mudslide

after the hurricane,

when two months of rain

fell in a single day.



Anne Whitehouse is the author of poetry collections: The Surveyor’s Hand, Blessings and Curses, Bear in Mind, One Sunday Morning, and The Refrain. Her sixth collection, Meteor Shower, is forthcoming from Dos Madres Press. Her novel, Fall Love, is appearing in Spanish translation as Amigos y amantes from Mundi Books. She is the winner of the 2016 Songs of Eretz poetry prize, the 2016 RhymeOn! poetry prize, and 2015 Common Good Books’ poems of gratitude contest.

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