Two poems by Joanna Fuhrman

martha many colors
Martha Dunfee


We twist around thin mountains
and skyscrapers in a rickety tram.

Hanging from a wire, we float
over warehouses and lavender pagodas.

I’m not scared but a little airsick
when the car lurches, starts to rock.

The wind lifts up            the crooked hem
of my linen dress             the edges
of the trees blurring,

and yes, the man and two women
with me are just temporary friends.

The man, like me, is aging
one year   per minute.

As we talk, his eyebrow hair      turns gray
and the lines     on his face expand
like spider webs          in dark corners.

The women grow younger slowly.
Their hips become narrower.

Shimmering with the afterglow
of afternoon sex and unsweetened ice tea,
they smell like the memory of being born.

One lusts after the older man

She would want him if only he weren’t
sleeping with so and so—
that teenager with the body
of a teenager.

I am, of course, disgusted,
but what can I say?

I thought I was flirting, realize now
that I have become too old
for anyone to love.

As I think this,            the wire holding the tram up
splits, but I’m okay,                not really afraid.

I feel an odd calm,
and on a warm current of air,
we drift slowly toward           the ocean, and I listen

to what sounds like the lullaby
of an fragrant tangerine
played with a bow as if it were a violin.

I think of time as an arrow
bent in a circle and this image
fills me with a new kind of joy.

Finally in slow motion               we land
on a white sand beach.

Our legs are unsteady,

and everything is silent,

the dragon back of the city,
fading into clouds.

The Bad Witness

Yes, we can hear the war.

Yes, we know it’s happening
in the apartment next door.

These days shame is a noose
worn ironically and then
forgotten about.

If the good witness were here,
she would teach us how to listen,

how to hold the pain of the present
in our jaw:

a stupid guard dog
savoring a gift.


Joanna Fuhrman teaches poetry writing at Rutgers and Sarah Lawrence Writers Village. Poems appear in current issues of La Vague and Boog City, and are forthcoming in Conduit, Fence, Hanging Loose and The Saint Ann’s Review. For more see: “Funicular” is included in the anthology Like Light: 25 Years of Poetry and Prose by Bright Hill Poets & Writers, edited by Bertha Rogers.