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Reading Room

a selection of poems by Cameron E Quinn


(Originally published by Jeopardy Magazine. 2007.)

--- 1 ---

With tombstones on their heads
And death, a heavy black cloth, draping
Around their Turkish shoulders
They spin
Three times before they drop their cloaks
And burst into bright white light,
Right palm heavenward,
Left palm dragging the blessing home
Like a spiritual cog
In a machine that’s forgotten its poverty
As the divine breath of the ney
Winds around the Whirling Dervish spindles.

--- 2 ---

She put a finger to her throat
And counted the number of times
Blood surged through her heart.
Right on target.
Her feet sent the wheels spinning,
Spinning into nowhere but chasing
Her cardio goals, her weight goals, and
Her be-fit-in-the-Darwinian-sense goals.
This is approved by the release of endorphins,
An evolutionary leftover from the days when
Jaguars crushed the skulls of Australopithecus africanus.

--- 3 ---

They were boiled alive inside
The silk cocoons they spun around themselves
In 300,000 instinctive figure-eights.
This after being hand-fed 50,000 times their weight
In mulberry leaves – chewed at sweat-shop volume.
A live moth would burn through this precious silk
With alkali, so they must die
To be remembered
Or, at least, useful.

--- 4 ---

They puked out their organelles
Into numbered glass vials so they could be
Microscopically examined – the cells
literally picked apart by the centrifuge.
There’s a bigger one made for people:
It sorts those who can withstand
Being smacked with the business end of
An amusement park ride,
The nauseating force of gravitational defiance,
From those who will never see the stars up close.

--- 5 ---

Toe-blood soaks her silken slippers
But the real strain lies higher on the ballerina,
The force of three times her body-weight
And the entire life of her career hanging
On the trembling downfall of Achilles.
“J’ai la tête qui toune!”
She said and learned to focus
Her eyes on a single target
As she spun on tip-toes across the stage.    
“I want the euphoria
Of spinning, without being
Held in place”
So she endures the broken blisters’ persistence
But can’t imagine life past an ankle-rip.

--- 6 ---

We would disappear into
empty space and atomic dust
if our electrons stopped spinning,
and a stationary Earth would burn
and freeze and lose its life.
Thoughts coil around meaning
As planets whirl around their twirling suns.
The entire universe unwinds from the big bang
Like a corkscrew after the champagne has been popped.



Hemigrapsus nudus


Shed carapaces

rattle in the wind like chimes.

Intertidal growth.



A Discovery of Aromatic Hydrocarbons


This, too, must collapse

- dark perfume of future stars -

before it can shine.

False Spring


Eager sprout meets frost,

adds its richness to the soil.

Another seed cracks.




Gentle Messenger


Water still and green

Frog sends ripples through the pool

No longer stagnant

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