No Lifeguard on Duty


Out of stock

poems by

Myra Malkin

Poetry chapbook, 52 pages, $7 cover price

($5 if ordered from the MSR Online Bookstore)

ISBN: 978-1-59948-252-1

Released: 2010


MMalkin_PxMyra Malkin grew up in Brooklyn, the daughter of a spinach packer who also bottled pickles. She majored in Classics at Radcliffe College. Then she switched gears and studied acting at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Back in New York, she was a founding member of a small off-off-Broadway company, the New Repertory Company. After moving to Ithaca, New York, she went to Cornell Law School and, for fifteen years, worked as a legal services attorney in Ithaca. Her last publication was a chapter (with Peter W. Martins), of the Social Security Practice Guide published by Matthew Bender & Co. She was married to Edward Murray, a musician; their daughter, Nadya, lives in Japan. She now lives in New York City and is a longtime member of the New York Poetry Dogs.

No Lifeguard on Duty, its rich imagery delivered in uncluttered language, is about loss and grief. “Casserole women will blossom,” Myra Malkin writes in one poem, where she speculates on what might result if she had died, instead of her husband. It’s not easy to create a collection of poetry reticent in its emotion in which so much emotional power shines through. Malkin does that in poems that are attentive in their sound and rhythm, and intellectual in their approach. The book is a requiem, a plainsong for a dead and much-loved husband, and a hard look at dying in general — with subject matter ranging from a mostly-burnt dead dodo to Traviata. But it is she who has survived, she who is trapped “in the Kansas of after.” In that Kansas, every enjambment and every stanza break have been carefully thought through, and do their poetic duty.

Susana Case
author of Anthropologist in Ohio
(Finalist 2004 MSR Chapbook Contest)


How pain distorts.
Grotesque, diluted self, a Capgras self
that sits where suitcased self once sat.
A burst fat fruit,
all outline gone.
Self’s reliquary: body — the betrayer.

High on an exhibition’s plinth,
Saltcellar‘s perched —
a fretwork aedicule,
an ivory trinket-monument, a tomb
for salt’s white dunes.

From round its waist,
four guardian snakes extrude
their ductile necks.
Are almost nose-to-nose
with carved fierce dogs,
protectors against ghosts.

But here are scans
— some ghost-berserker visitant got past.
Here are the shadows that shouldn’t —
Here are the shadows, and you

are the patient, and here
is your shortlist of choices
— see how they smirk.

Tots of Chinese sludge will save you.
Coffee enemas will save you.
Prayer and St. John’s Wort will save you.

Saltcellar, beautiful syllables, saltcellar saltcellar.




Introduced — by accident —
into the limpid rivers of Gabon

— the fish-without-a-name,
the bonytongue.

A skateboard shape, a rotten tree-trunk’s
lopped-off shank, it concentrates.

In cloudy water, stalks
slow indigenes. Unsated, eats.

To yardstick length extends.
Wet synods of it meet,

the hard substantial shadows fin on fin.

the river’s wooden.
Boats’ keels can’t cleave through fish-mass; swimmers can’t
their limbs.

Now every channel, suddenly,
is numbed.




I was ashamed
when we made our way through the lobby.

You walked so slowly.

I tried
to stay in step.

You sat,
out of the cold,
on the fake art deco bench.

I waited with the doorman,
for a cab.

You were so thin, your hair
grown out in tufts.

I said you could go to a barber
and you said, yes, you could,

but you never went.

You were dying
— it was obvious you were dying.
The doormen knew.

I wanted to be masked.
I wanted to wear a blanket over my head.

So that I wouldn’t see

your winter hair,
your concentrating face

in the lobby’s



If there’s no after-life

— and it hardly seems likely
that there is —

too many logic-knots —

those memories
with which

no bliss could co-exist,

but stripped of which,
the self’s

a too-redacted

(So much
to forgive God for —

one’s own sins
next to his.)

I know
you’re nowhere now
— as I will be.

So grief
will have a stop.

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