Skip to main content

Prose poetry from Thomas Alan Orr and Tracy Mishkin

How to Steal a Piano: A Prose Poem
by Thomas Alan Orr

Carefully, of course.  Keep this in mind: you must not be tempted to play “Heart and Soul” or “Chopsticks” as you lower her through a window on pulleys at two in the morning.  Don’t let her bang against the side of the building on the way down lest she belly forth with fragments of Chopin or Jelly Roll Morton.  Most say the stronger man should stay above, working the ropes, but you need more muscle down below in case a wind comes up and she starts to kick and buck.  You don’t want to waste time picking up sharps and flats on the street.  Tuck her into the bed of the truck and wrap her well. Nobody likes a chilly upright or a cold baby grand.  Wool socks on the pedal lyres keep her quiet.  And don’t drop the fallboard on your fingers or else you’ll be singing.  Driving through rough streets, avoid the potholes or the whippen will come loose, composing melodies to charm a ghost.  A haunted grand, though rare, won’t bring a hundred grand.

Bio: Thomas Alan Orr's poems have appeared in Good Poems, edited by Garrison Keillor, and other anthologies and journals. His poetry has also been read into the record of the Maine State Legislature. His first book of poems was Hammers in the Fog. He is finishing a second book under the working title, Tongue to the Anvil.


 “Moon Chest,” Ai Weiwei Exhibit
by Tracy Mishkin

for Pat Cupp

She stands at the other end of a line of tall wooden chests, portholes carved in each one. The chests are slightly misaligned, and the curved insides swell and recede like phases of the moon, framing my friend. We peer through the holes at each other until another art lover leans in and interrupts our view. Pat, who is old enough to be my mother, served in the Peace Corps in Ethiopia in the 1960s. She drank goat milk. Learned Amharic. Saw the bodies of student protesters before they were cold. When the doctor found a growth in her lung, she knew it was cancer. “After all,” she said, “I smoked for twenty years.” She has fine blond hair that she cuts herself. Tomorrow her chemotherapy begins. She is doubtful about hats and wigs. The chests are looming over us with their incisions. I want to give one a shove and watch them all fall down.

Tracy Mishkin is a career immigrant. Born in academia, she taught in Georgia and published two books on African-American literature, then disappeared, resurfacing in the land of non-profits with the Bureau of Jewish Education in Indianapolis. Three years later, she was spotted across the border working retail at the Uniform House before she immigrated to the corporate world, where she resolves insurance problems at Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield. Finishing Line Press will publish her chapbook I Almost Didn’t Make It to McDonald’s in 2014. Her work is also forthcoming in the Reckless Writing Poetry Anthology 2013 and has appeared in Tipton Poetry Journal, Flying Island, Poetica, and in the Focus 9-11 section of