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June 15, 2023 Poetry

3 Poems

Jill McDonough

3 Poems photo

100 Identical Aluminum Boxes

Donald Judd made 100 identical aluminum boxes. Except
they are each totally different, everyone wants you to know.
He could have made 300 more, or a thousand, depending
on who you ask. The boxes mess with light like lucite, glass,
reflect the rainy day outside, the puddles on the poor concrete,
the concrete ceiling and the ceiling leaks. Light on their tops
pooling like water, the boxes are prisms, windows, infinity mirrors.
The chatty woman on my tour asks our tour guide Are you a native
This feels like a trick, some Texas trap. We walk into
the second artillery shed, where there is a second aluminum set
of fifty identical boxes, all different, but she’s already had
enough. She walks in first and takes one look and then she says  
Good grief! I have no idea why this makes me laugh
for weeks. I ask the box-guards what’s your favorite and no one
hesitates; they all have favorites. They tell me instantly what
and where theirs is. One likes an I-type that reflects the sun in angles
on the ground, another likes one with half a top, a third likes one
divided into four inch, eight inch, twelve. Mathy, I say; Yes,

ma’am, he says. They almost all of them say ma’am. My favorite
is a horizontal box that floats inside another, bigger horizontal box.
box of window frame, shook foil, box of new
hiking boots, that woman’s low jeaned hips. Of clouds
and grasses, passing rabbits, javelina. Box of Rubbermaid bin
of the leaking. Box of puddles, berm. Slice of orange Patagonia
jacket, plane of blue sky, pink. It’s there all day, all night, forever;
now grey, now almost white. Box of something, slice of light.


One Day Over and Over

We see a dumb movie about one day over and over, ask
what day we’d pick. Our wedding day, Josey says, reflexively,
an easy win we laugh at—classic Josey—and also those days
kind of sucked. A civil union in Vermont before it was legal,
the backyard party we threw, stressed out the whole time. Then
the state-sanctioned one: first justice of the peace we called
said he wasn’t sure yet about the gays. Nevermind, man! Don’t
do us any favors, bub! But then we go through good days, one
walking from temple to shrine to matcha ice cream in Kyoto.
A birthday in Florence, when we probably had Covid but
didn’t know it, walked from the Hotel Hermitage up
to San Miniato, down to the market at Santo Spirito, sucking
on Golia to stop coughing, buying all the vintage smoky plastic
frame reading glasses we saw. Waking to cedars on terra cotta
embassy walls in Rome, hopping the tram from Maxxi
to via Flaminia, walking to the Vatican past angels on bridges,
after the Berninis at the Borghese, long lunch at La Rosetta, quick
shade of the Pantheon. Was that all in one day? Could be.
Does it matter? What are the One-Day rules? Maybe it’s Maine,
me thigh-deep in low-tide holding on to the boat while Josey runs
over to Hanford’s for steamers and wine, a steak we grilled
on the rocks there once. A day we slept on our new porch sofa
outside, the day they said I could teach in the jail, or when
she defended her thesis, one of many days we found out whatever
that thing was wasn’t cancer, or wasn’t anymore. For now. So
we give up trying to pin down a Best Day; we can’t. In the current
solitude, homemade masks and cherry jam, one day follows
another of iced coffee and reading, email and what do you want
to get done
today, sourdough toast and tell me how I can help


Sonnet for Yoga with Josey and Halo

Josey and I do a ten minute Yoga with Adriene,
open throats, hips, laugh at how much we love
the opening music, static holds, way in
to our days. I tell her I want some kissing, one
minute of mat kissing before lesson plans,
emails, dishes. So she leans over, her whole
dear face concerned with her long list, the One
through One Hundred Twelve of things to do,
and she's got a halo, soft morning shine on the gold
ceiling above her, ceiling we painted, drywall
I held up while she screwed it in, this whole
house our idea. What we wanted: all
this; sturdy lath and plaster. Her work ethic, my
handprints. Decades of hips, beet juice, thick lives.