the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Spring 2007



Three from Pamela Hart

Sometimes a bone

is a bone on the table in the morning
to be looked at, nothing else, look

at its five beautiful points like bone
china or like the register of lines

on a forehead, press them into estuaries we follow
to a low-tide inlet, collecting shells rebuffed

by gull or crab, swim — the tide coming in — sift
for beach glass—toss back any not-yet-luster-worn piece

—or here at the bone's edge, look,
a deeper brown and small knots waiting

to be deciphered. So I set out to tell the way
things are, look up from the bone on the table

distracted by the crows' laugh, which isn't
laughter but one name for their song

and crossing the yard is a buck, his four
points charting his head, look

the bone, its curvature makes
positive and negative shapes on the table

but there's no making going on anywhere,
only this bone bereft,

but for my line of sight from point to point
mapping the bone — image and frame.



Because they said the eager
ghosts return once a year

because I was hungry for your body
I drew your name on the lantern

to call you back in some form,
chanted syllables of the lotus

sutra, stared at the monk's shaved
head, the mouth that opened

then closed around each vowel
and consonant, hoping you'd show

up as a shape or sound
and someone said there was a bear

outside the dharma hall
but I figured the dead sparrow

on the path, the women at dinner
weren't your reincarnated selves.

I burned a message in the bonfire,
searched the flames, did not see your face.

I saved a bone chip
before throwing the handful

of ash at the waves
ash blown back on my arm.


To make a portrait of the self

so that the surface becomes the self
eyes corpse blue - blemish inking upper lip
I fell into a detail of Mitchell's Untitled 1963
collaged us together to lean on the viscous daubs
of teal and saffron that scuff her landscape.
I avoided my face - its splatter of pores, lips
that hoard, the mouth a leaky bracket, textured brow.
Knots of her paint mixed with my geography -
how the self takes in other stories.
The light that seized the tree one
morning then folded itself into my face.

(From Pamela Hart's The End of the Body, in The Fifth Voice: Poems by Victoria Givotovsky, Pamela Hart, Noah Kuij
and Allen Strous,
Toadlily Press, Quartet Series, 2006.  Reprinted with permission from the author.)


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