A Couch Designer Describes Her Process


It starts with a strike like a bell

against the core of me—

could be the silver flash

of a scissor, or a harmonica’s

shilly-shally.  Lately it’s been scenes

from late-night TV—

I’m addicted to police

procedurals.  Not necessarily the detective

with a mopey mien

but the idea of the murderous

countryside that contains him—

chill landscaping

in bone-colored plastics

or a dusty blue palette.  Like Ystad,

that town in Sweden

where Kenneth Branagh plays

a cop for the BBC—unshaven,

destined for grim discoveries

made grimmer by the figure

of a petrified blonde

trunk found on an Ystader beach.

Is it birch?  Balsam?

I don’t know Swedish trees.

Someone (a painter?) once said

it takes so little line

to make a curve—I have to find

the pleat that will get the scent

of herring into this upholstery,

conjure weathered wood

with joint geometry, arm railings

twisted and sprouting

an Ystad-styled reverie—

a couch to make all other

blue couches weep, a couch more

Scandinavian, more existential

than five inches of sleet

or detectives with wrecked lives,

bored by sexual liberty.

A couch that whispers

to housewives and dental patients alike—

Come, see through my pressed wood,

and believe the sense that tells you

what you need isn’t comfort,

but your own strange heart, the mysteries

of its far-away countries.

Mandy Malloy is a poet and graphic designer living in Brooklyn, New York.  A graduate of Hunter College’s MFA program, Mandy is a fellow this summer at the Norman Mailer Colony in Provincetown, MA.  Her poems have appeared in Hot Metal Bridge and Blood Orange Review, among others.  Hot Metal Bridge will be featuring her poem “Don’t Tip-Toe Past the Witch’s Pool” in the journal’s “Best of Hot Metal Bridge” print edition (release date TBA).