Jean L. Kreiling—Featured Poet


Partygoer’s Ghazal

I wonder if it matters what I wear tonight.
Will my beloved, still unknown, be there tonight?

My mother would advise that I wear black,
but I prefer to dress with far more flair tonight.

My short red skirt might catch the eye of one
who’s tall, good-looking, rich, and debonair tonight.

A silky low-cut blouse might turn his head;
a bit of milky skin should be left bare tonight.

Some strappy five-inch heels might make him think
of what—besides small talk—we two could share tonight.

I’ll ask him if he’ll bring me some champagne.
I’ll drink too many glassfuls. Do I dare tonight?

Or will a coffee spoon suffice to measure
the evening’s thrills? Oh, why should fate be fair tonight?

He won’t be there, and I’ll go home alone.
I’ll wear my blue jeans. Nobody will care tonight.

Subtext for Sam

Dear Sam (more dear to me than I should say—
in fact, I’ll highlight “Dear” and press “Delete”)
Your newsy e-mail brightened up my day.
(My heart is pounding!—but I’ll be discreet.)
I’m glad to hear you got that raise at last
(but your worth can’t be measured in mere gold!),
and sorry that your Aunt Lou-Ann has passed
(but I could comfort you with charms untold).
And yes, the market forecasts have been frightful
(who cares for wealth if we can’t be together?),
and yes, these autumn days have been delightful
(I hate this chattering about the weather!).
Let’s keep in touch, my (dear, illicit) friend.
(I leave out “Love” and sigh as I hit “Send.”)

The Fugues of Bach

They’re catchy, repetitive, logical,
intriguingly dense, and propulsive—
a treat for the neat, the methodical,
and the cultured obsessive-compulsive.

The Mahler Diagnosis

The evidence leads me to classify
his music as the work of a neurotic:

he makes the brass complain, the cellos cry,
the winds breathe heavily toward the erotic.

His moods intense, he tries to signify
them all, from rapturous to melancholic;

his grand orchestral dramas could supply
a soundtrack suitable for the quixotic.

This music will dredge up, then amplify
your hopes and fears; it works like a narcotic—

depresses inhibitions, makes you high,
and hooks you: its vibrations are hypnotic.

If Mahler’s passions seem to multiply
your own, and maybe leave them more chaotic,

don’t worry. He met Freud, who said the guy
just missed his mother, and was not psychotic.

North by Northwest

after the 1959 film by Alfred Hitchcock

Mistaking one man for another
instigates the plot;
then Roger takes on what the other
might have, but cannot,

because the other, it turns out,
does not exist. What’s more,
the lovely Eve inspires doubt,
as does the fevered score.

Though Eve and Roger make it work
(and there’s a perfect fit
of train and tunnel), dangers lurk
as they grow intimate.

Pursued by thugs, they dodge the gang
in many scenic places—
such as Mount Rushmore, where they hang
from presidential faces.

Whom should they trust? Crop-duster, spy,
professor? And this game—
in which some cheat, some kill, some lie—
began with one wrong name.

The lessons are quite clear: protect
your own identity,
then learn rock-climbing, and suspect
all others. Also, be

as suave as Roger and as smart
as Eve. For that way, you
can find the treasure of your heart,
and keep on breathing, too. 


O merciful magician, who erases
the evidence of all my gluttony!
You drown the cookie crumbs, swallow the traces
of Chardonnay, inhale the bits of brie.
I hear your swishing, splashing incantation,
the holy water swirling through the crud—
but I can leave the room: no supplication
or kneeling is required, no sweat, no blood.
At cycle’s end, a look inside reveals
that if I’m not quite cleansed of sin, at least
my dishes are. From my unbalanced meals,
it seems I’ve been absolved, and with no priest.
I’ve managed to gain spotless grace and hope
by tithing just a little pod of soap.

Between the Eyes

My aging eyes require a slice
of surgical precision—
two slices, really (two eyes). Twice,
a very small incision

will cut into an eye that’s seen
not well, but well enough,
for decades. But it’s all routine,
I’m told; it won’t be tough.

In fact, I think I am prepared
for ocular invasion.
A cure for blur! Although I’m scared,
that’s adequate persuasion.

What does concern me is the week
that follows work on one eye.
Will things look odd, depthless, oblique,
when I’ve got one undone eye?

And will my equilibrium—
the fragile mental kind
that keeps me sane—perhaps succumb
to eyesight misaligned?

Will I grasp one thing when I should
grasp two? Believe half-truth?
Make half-assed choices? Feel half-good?
Need double the vermouth?

My doctor said that I may feel
unbalanced. That’s not news—
I’m not known for a steady keel;
I’ll just sing half the blues.

And for a week I’ll try to learn
to welcome what appears
to my unequal eyes; I’ll turn
a blind eye to my fears.

“Partygoer’s Ghazal” and “Subtext for Sam” first appeared, respectively, in The Ghazal Page and The Evansville Review.

Jean L. Kreiling is the author of three collections of poetry: Shared History (2022), Arts & Letters & Love (2018), and The Truth in Dissonance (2014). Her work has been awarded the Rhina Espaillat Poetry Prize, the Frost Farm Prize, the Kelsay Books Metrical Poetry Prize, and the Plymouth Poetry Contest prize, among other honors. An Associate Poetry Editor for Able Muse: A Review of Poetry, Prose & Art, she lives on the coast of Massachusetts.