I love a surprise ending. Our poem of the week is by Spencer Smith, who lives in Utah. The narrator asks a lady on the bus what’s inside her basket. Maybe curiosity really did kill the cat. I was also struck by how Spencer had me hooked from the first three lines. This is how you keep a reader reading.
It is not large enough to hold hell,
though there may be some pieces inside
that have broken loose.
The woman’s fingers, crimson-nailed,
press tightly on the lid
as if caught in the throes of a Beethoven chord.
She knows I am watching her,
wondering what she is hiding;
she rotates away from me like the face of the moon.
When it is time to board the bus
I sit next to her as if by tragic accident.
but she is not deceived.
It lies clenched in her lap,
wicker lid breathing mystery.
She unwraps her scarf and tents it over the handle.
I hear no sounds of creatures inside;
no scent of zoo or decay hovers before me,
no aroma of bread or berries.
She turns to me suddenly, angrily,
lipstick red as her nails, and hisses that
it is the shrunken head of her dead husband.
I suppose it serves me right.
I smile at her. In these situations, I say,
it is good to keep our heads.
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