Poems by Gwen Hart


The Easy-Bake Oven Presages Disappointment


when it appears
my seventh Christmas,
its heart an ordinary
100-watt lightbulb
unscrewed from the fixture
above the kitchen sink—
I am crestfallen
it is not a real
miniaturized oven,
as seen on TV.
By summer, the tiny pans
are lined up at the top
of the backyard metal slide
filled with mud
pies baking in the sun.
The plastic oven shell
tilts in the back of the closet,
a discarded Barbie doll
sticking out the door.
Maybe you won’t want
things like that anymore,
predicts my mother. Maybe
I will want them more.


Your Anxiety Crushes on Donald Sutherland’s Character in Backdraft


She adores his sideways grin,
singsong dialogue, and the way
his mustache twists to the left
when he talks dreamily
about setting fires.
How easy it is to be kindling!
Every time her heart is broken,
she is a love letter crumpled
in the wastebasket,
sprayed with Rave hairspray,
and inflected with sparks
until only “Dear” and ashes
remain. She is always looking
for a place to douse her heart.
Rainbows of gasoline!
Rainbows of oil!
She remembers when Cleveland
set the Cuyahoga River on fire
just to spruce it up
for a party. She won’t share
the flint she’s fingering
in her pocket.
You want her to go,
so she goes up in flames,
from the tips of her eyelashes
to the cloud of her
bright orange mane.


Gwen Hart teaches writing at Montana State University Northern. Her second poetry collection, The Empress of Kisses, won the X. J. Kennedy Prize from Texas Review Press. Her poems have appeared recently in Chautauqua, The Whitefish Review, and Storm Cellar.




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