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Robert Fillman

Robert Fillman is the author of House Bird (Terrapin, 2022). His poems have appeared in The Hollins Critic, Poetry East, Salamander, Spoon River Poetry Review, Tar River PoetryValparaiso Poetry Review, and others. His criticism has appeared in ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and the Environment, The College Language Association Journal, and elsewhere. His chapbook, November Weather Spell, was published by Main Street Rag Publishing in 2019. He teaches at Kutztown University.


What I remember is the weight, the warmth
of the plastic held tight in my arms, how
the glass felt smooth against my skin, the light
of the screen still flashing cartoons as I
labored to breathe beneath our forty-inch
Magnavox TV, the strain on my chest,
my family’s laughter from the kitchen
over the single front speaker’s low hush
of volume, the fear they wouldn’t find me
in time, that I’d be punished if they did,
the tingling in my limbs when Mom and Dad
finally lifted the set off me, how
I was too embarrassed to tell them what
I’d been after all along was a hug.


Just months after my daughter’s
tenth birthday, my wife and I
are elbow deep in drawers

of mismatched underwear. We’re
surrounded by racks of white
torsos clad in sequined silk,

spaghetti straps like strangle
vines taking hold of headless
mannequins. We are looking

for our child’s first bra, her young
body thickening in parts
I don’t care to name. My wife

is leading the way through this
bramble bush of lingerie,
first holding in front of her

a plain beige A-cup, and then
a baby blue tee shirt bra,
then a shiny pink one trimmed

with lace. And I am feeling
helpless, trying not to stare
at the ample plasticine

models draped in sheer, pacing
without purpose, just trying
not to make eye contact with

the women who drift about
the store with ease as I lurch
from one station to the next,

my embarrassment clasped tight
in my throat when I stumble
to answer the saleslady

who approaches and asks me
in a satin-mesh whisper,
what brings you folks in today?

every inch of me sweating,
my face a deeper red than
the woman’s push-up halter,

my wife nowhere to be found,
still swaying in the luster
of garments, while my mind trips
on a tangle of curved lines.
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