Harriet Plouffe

Harriet Plouffe is a writer and artist living in Jersey City. Her work has appeared in Two Serious Ladies, alternet.orgtruth-out.org, and the Rag Blog. Below is a sampling of her poetry. 

Almost an elegy

A two-fold terror of indifference,

tucked away for two and twenty, recovered

only recently to sense anew that

remorse long since blurred by distraction,

duties and the desire

to feel far from the fate of almost;

but since drifted much further to where

almost is wintered out of reach.


All the way to almost! Took the two-fold

terror to send for the memory of the type of

bravery it took to get to almost, almost

took it right out of me, after

almost I recoiled,

since almost not

nothing, but not nearly, not quasi, certainly

not nigh only now conditioned everlasting

to the conditional, a chant, a prayer, a

rosary to chew on, distractedly, an

amber necklace, teething, stiff-lipped

on each bead of almost.


(And yet—that was me! That was—almost!)

My ship life

I’m supposed to be dead by now

by my own code of honour:


Failure at 12: made the mistake of not jumping ship.

Failure at 13: but then downsized to a smaller boat.

Failure at 14: opportunity to debark, refused!

Failure at 17: watched the sails fall, lazily fell onto closest life raft (should have forced

       myself to swim).


Failure at 19: offended that my talents aboard this raft went unrecognized, certain it

       was because they were resented, I stuck my ass in the air and my head

       in the sea, swallowed too much water.


Failure at 20: kept drinking seawater while swimming towards the wrong island on


Failure at 21: after deportation from island refused to board any ships from old land.

Failure at 22: decided to stare at ships instead of boarding them.

Failure at 23: on dry land, fell into a hole and was too embarrassed to cry ‘helpf!’

       (Someone might have heard me).


Failure at 24: remained on dry land, got hit by a car.

Failure at 25: stuck my head in the sand


Failure at 26: failed to pull head out (could here have built a new boat)

Failure at 27: I guess I’ll just walk along the boardwalk.

Attempted redemption at 28: well, I bought a little boat-model kit…

Failure at 28: still haven’t put it together.

Bagatelles pour une baguette

His literary idol was passing through town

with his wife, we were the hosts, and they—

so shy it’s rude! could barely speak—

so shy—they couldn’t admit they were hungry but then

when I cooked they ate it all—

clearly famished—enthusiastically accepted

offers for seconds only there weren’t any—

so shy—they stayed in bed until noon when they

finally realized we weren’t going anywhere and

reluctantly emerged though

in realizing this was what they were waiting for I’d suggested it

but by then they were already out of bed—

so—shy yet still wearing their pajamas, staring into coffee mugs

so shy—yet finished the milk.

I telegraphed telepathically—take them out—

to the bakery—what would I have? a baguette—

that’s all, and when they returned

I was back in the back, nursing again and

working up a real appetite—I was famished—

real nursing hunger—I was fantasizing

about that baguette

and when I finally emerged they

were too shy to greet me, kept their heads

down as they always did—so shy

they couldn’t acknowledge entrances

or exits like last night—so shy that

because when I’d said goodnight I’d

said it to the room, that is to everyone—

so shy—even that was too ambiguous, or ambiguous enough

to ignore—so shy they “weren’t sure” I’d meant it actually

for them or if they did just too

shy to respond—the shyness of really

terrified people—so shy there wasn’t room for anyone else’s

shyness—which was maybe why I

resented it—being suction-cupped into the

extrovert—so shy it’s aggressive—yes—

aggressive—it must have been an act—

it must have been calculated—it shouldn’t have gone

unpunished—this calculated play for power—the kind

of shyness that behind closed doors

shit-talks you with spiteful glee—aggressive!

that’s what it is—and as I figured this out having just been

met with that non-greeting, wondering

when his literary idol and wife would be leaving, I

went to the bread basket and—

so shy they’d eaten my baguette.


Why write a poem

       When I could just

              Look in the mirror

All day

       From different angles

              And make faces at myself

While thinking?

Talksink think

You know what really makes me think I’m an artist

            is standing there washing dishes

            not the washing but the running water

            my mind wanders so perfectly

            it feels good like a good gallop

It’s almost like I’m making

            the things I’m thinking about

            making at that moment

            like it feels like

            the process of writing

            is happening right there at the sink

            like I’m the monk-like

            writer of my monastic fantasies

            like the writing itself is something I like

            do without trying to like

            do every day it’s like the running water like

            I mean the words like horses like

            everyone's already said I’m

            like a true Californian I mean

            better at writing than at talking

            better then at the word than at the

referent is to the word as

            a something sort of like that, like

            a similar simile of the Californian to

            the smile itself, a phony, I’m saying

            I like the word written, thank you

            like it matters anyway

            to be liked, to get a job like

            the ones where your written words should lead

            you know you’ll be interviewed you

            know that don’t you you’ll have

            to be interviewed you give your

            job talk they care about how you are so

            you’ll have to work on that you

            know your writing is

(like water?)

            much stronger than your—

            what I mean is you come off better

            on paper than in person

—Like a true Californian, like

            horses in Ojai or like

            buses, the 24, say, Divisadero, like

            that? ‘cause there’s a difference

—But what are your plans do you

            plan to go on the market? To live

            like that? Well on the one horse

            it wouldn’t be a bad life if it were

            handed to me like the reins to a

            horse, like if I could do that

            and have free reign, it’s just that

            with something like that that others like

            more than I do, which is to say I like

            it but not as much as I like

            standing at the sink if you know

            what I mean, it’s something I’ve always liked

            preferred to everything, so the

            second horse on the other horse

            The only horse I like

            I said the only question is

Would I have time every day to stand at the sink?