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two poems

by Jane Donohue

Egg and Cheese with God

After death you show up in a kitchen somewhere and god cooks you dinner.

The kitchen is in your first apartment out of college or your grandmother’s house

when you were five or it’s a kitchen you haven’t seen yet.

My kitchen is narrow and high-ceilinged, the bulbs above the oven

splashing light over the stove, halfway across the long dining table.

God is unremarkable and eight feet tall and full of slow smiles.

I feel on the cusp of drunkenness—everything spinning, my mouth loose.

I ask a lot of frantic questions, arms crooked and waving;

God puts a hand on my shoulder and says, “Let’s for once not intellectualize.”

There is a mug of tea before me and it’s dark outside.

If I walked out of this kitchen I think I’d stop existing.

God comments on the lateness of the hour—not angry, just observant.

He asks if I had fun and I have to think about it but end up saying yes.

God makes me an egg and cheese, butters the English muffin

because I’m nearly drunk and I’ve just died. I think maybe the egg will drip

and we’ll read the yolk’s runoff like tea leaves, but that sort of thing is for the living.

When you’re dead, an egg is just an egg. The kitchen shrinks like a blanket

pulled close over my shoulders. God leaves me to eat, reminds me to turn the lights off

when I head up for bed. I might be ripshit about all this in the morning.

For now, I taste butter and garlic salt, black tea with orange rinds.

My face is unwashed, my bed unmade, my nightstand undusted.

I haven’t flossed and this kitchen shouldn't exist and I’m tired,

but I am, finally, no longer hungry.

The Big Bounce Theory

is rejected by most physicists, but it’s still a nice idea.

it says so you know how the universe is expanding?

so what if it expands all the way out and then collapses

on itself, condenses back into a single bright point of matter.

and here comes the good part: when it collapses and condenses

galaxies and planets and your misplaced car keys into a ball so tiny

it’s really pointless to think about—what if then there’s another big bang?

and the universe spreads out over and over and collapses again and again,

a heart flushing blood through the body before calling it back.

and between the beginning stages, with hot, uninhabitable galaxies,

planetary growing pains rocking each meteorite-studded surface,

and those end stages where suns hiss as they’re extinguished,

great, hot marbles lowered into a cold mug of matter and everything

—space dust and plant stems and stilled human tongues—

gets smushed into a little ball of being-clay—

between all of that we coo at babies on the subway and try growing

radishes in the garden and get a little pissed, honestly,

at cyclists even though they’re saving the earth.

what if between every beginning and every end

we learn something—a small, hard knowing

that stays swaddled in our little bundle of being-clay,

an heirloom for our distant ancestors.

maybe in the next one, no one will invent the atomic bomb,

even if they know they can. maybe they’ll learn to speak with birds.

in a new language and a new universe,

defying prevailing scientific thought,

someone will write a poem sort of like this one

but maybe shorter and more intelligent,

flexing fingers of the same clay I used to write this.


Jane Donohue is a writer of poetry and prose from New Hampshire. Her work has appeared in On the Seawall, Stone of Madness, Polaris, and Autofocus, and is forthcoming in Elsewhere and West Branch.


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