Mar '04 [Home]
First Green is Gold
The Experimental Plane ~ X-Ray Visionary ~ Ian Kahn | Ghazal ~ Sybil Kollar | Arnold's Meadow ~ Deena Linett | A Box of Fresh ~ Michael Morical | Golden ~ Van Gogh's Self-Portraits ~ What Do You in an Empty Room? ~ Stella Padnos | Truth Ghazal ~ On Desire ~ Margaret Peters Schwed | Jacalope ~ Mary Austin Speaker | A Look at the Moon ~ Inspiration ~ Stephen Stepanchev
Morning ~ Sally Bliumis | Chibalaya ~ Early Naughty & So Modern ~ Patricia Brody | the bird watchers ~ Denver Butson | At the Stoplight ~ Robert Klein Engler | Lucy Dillard ~ Paul Espel | Advice ~ Andrew Glaze | Almost at the Corner ~ Shelley Hainer | The Burning Girl ~ Kythe Heller | The Art of Sleeping ~ Michelle Herman
The Experimental Plane
It will not be in vain, the slippery melting icicle filmed,
Sped up, and playing. All the burning chickens that energize
That rampant equation which equals our hairy metropolis
So that our exports, our ink, our plums, grow subcultures.
That the west winds touching our mountaintops can sustain
A team of refugees for their masterfully extended lifetimes
I give myself the purpose of seeking pleasure in this pool
And why we must clash I don't fully understand but when
It happens the energy expended is almost always rapidly
Replaced by the ripple of its expenditure and the rain is
A sign that this must grow and proceed. The lines of our
Flag are a glowing spectrum of lasers, and no one has
Ever seen us. Crinkled, crumpled, spangled, and down.
The blue dragon squadron streaking across the sky.
For this we broke out over the fence and crossed the dunes.
Like a knight who has dreamt of a princess
Sitting on his face, my life is doomed and
All the richer for it, throughout the duration of this operation.
I hear you drummer, drum on! We seek to sense,
Carrying our seeds in our core,
Sailing past all but the most sumptuous,
Though bombarded, heralded, adored like a babe in a soft
Blanket one minute, the next thrust into battle.
The vacuum shark who feeds on dust gives you a glorious
Ride my French maid and the question arises:
Will for you I burn all other plays?
You who saved me on the seas.
We wait. The train I am thinking of is oceans away.
I come out the door to a distant choir of bagpipes.
Then it is only flight that brings me back
Into the world of sixteen million fishbowls.
I sit on a cream cloud and admire the triangles,
The petals, the crystals.
Purple, lavender, black, rust.
The woven landscape's in stereo,
Pulsing aura turquoise horses, golden lambs
Spraypainted with the shepherd's graffiti.
See-through dresses, heavy wool coats,
We push our bangs out of our eyes
Dressed in opalescent butterflies,
Made up of lace like letters, they say.
~ . ~
The past tracks me under a hunter's moon
I move warily listening for its sour breath
Dark viscous patterns coil through my hair
I am back in the shed of hip-boots and bait
The sound of water slapping against rock
There is the lingering smell of rotting fish
It is the shadowy hour of rising mist
The red canoe is tilted on its side
I pass through a thick cover of reeds
Perhaps a Sybilline omen would have foretold
The soft, patulous earth molds my footprints
Leaving behind a string of tiny, open graves.
(Prior pub.: The Literary Review)
~ . ~
The mown span's a rock-strewn incline, matchless,
imperfect: tall dry stalks, wind-blasted trees
and plumy grasses, rotting fruit. Cultivated iris beds
line the western edge and in their cycles roses,
alllium and lilies, everything exclaiming. A century-old apple tree,
small copy of the great world-tree, sets out globes
of red and gold composed of memories of wind and snow
and sunlight. In ponds of greeny water dark as amnion, koi
marked like Saint Bernards before they're mammals
flash black and white and gold
between the water-grasses. All day the light
on bark and leaf and water. Little tracts of scum
smudge images of cloud astride the wind-scored surface
like wishes or intention and never come ashore.
~ . ~
A Box of Fresh
On my 17,000-dollar glass-
enclosed porch, I can't
clean the windows anymore.
Spray and wipe;
smear the grime.
Used to have nothin'
but what we stole—
too much fun to sleep.
My elbow grease
has dried up
and the sun's distorted.
Can't clean my windows
I hold this rag—
too much hurt
In the last pitch black
before dawn—I may be
the last one who remembers—
the baker would leave
a box of fresh
on the grocery's back stoop.
You could bite
into that smell—especially
if you'd missed dinner.
We'd snatch all the donuts
and quarts of milk
from the neighbors' boxes—
changing victims daily.
Why'd I design
this room, this view
of a pond in the woods
when the glass gets
speckled with bird shit
and I can't clean my
I doze, wobbling
on the edge of my chair.
As the sun came up,
we'd wash down our glazed
with milk and jump
on the Pennsylvania—
trains crawled back then—
and ride just to go.
Our guts were full. We fibbed
about ladies in the bordello
when we didn't know
the basics of plumbing.
There's a French window
the sparrows missed;
when I remember
to look through it,
the sky in the reflecting
my storm till I don't
need to clean the windows
as far as Columbus.
~ . ~
He loves her because her fading has begun.
Her eyes amber in winter and growing gold.
Her neck is the beverage sucked out.
The topography of arms deserting itself,
mountain ranges over rivers.
He loves her so her disappearance will not be shocking,
so when he wakes up and doesn't see her
he will see the pattern of loss:
side view growing crisper,
pupils turning to whites,
the imprint on her pillow harder
and harder to find.
Van Gogh's Self-Portraits
Every month he sits
in yesterday's flesh,
looking for a new version of himself.
All painted eyes display disbelief
that he is anything but a canvas surface.
In some he wears a straw hat,
as if the earth overturned on him alone.
Sometimes he's right.
His eyes unpeel each mirror
and burn each portrait
until he stops
and starts over.
His colors are realer than anyone.
Light slaps through water,
lands dizzy on his cheek and mouth,
but I still can't see what he's saying.
How long will his paint be the only
to hold his heart?
Oils not mixing with anyone.
He is the only one he can't capture.
What Do You Say in an Empty Room?
Let's choose the walls we will avoid facing
and what color they will be.
What will we cushion ourselves from the earth with?
We walk on marble, wood, and linoleum.
Our light comes from plugs and bulbs.
How will we shade the brightness when we're dark?
I see outside myself clearly through a spotless window.
I clean and remove all traces of myself.
Do we want our insides out or our outsides in?
A porch with walls?
We have no view.
The coffee table is for cigarettes.
The bookcase is for show.
The luxury of one thing — one color, one person —
What will I share and what stories are for the attic?
What do we save for never?
How will we present the skin of our lives —
the surroundings that seem so real
until we move out of them?
I don't know what to write, John.
I cannot write a gun,
nor a knife from the kitchen.
My mother keeps anything sharp
off the table.
I dreamt that you were a burglar, John,
stealing from yourself.
Before that, on the subway,
I saw a child becoming
lost. I asked you for comfort.
You held out a gun,
and on top of that, my eyes shone.
~ . ~
Margaret Peters Schwed
My lashed brother, I couldn't know your silence was revealing. At the time,
My own words, so beautiful, so blind. You, healing at the time.
Look at truth: a rose cultivated in a tub. (Tonight we guard each bloom.
Each open heart. But then the thievish moon you caught, stealing at the time.)
Scent is falling like a shadow in your garden. Where I live, March alone
Brings the peepers out. I never see them, only hear their pealing at the time.
What happens when a word is spoken? How warm the dark is
Or how cold. Our embrace, its parenthesis, left me reeling at the time.
What can be taken back? The lemon. Even the word 'lemon.' But not
Its yellow oiled rind, not everything one knew of lemon and was concealing at the time.
What is the case is not enough. Or perhaps yes, for the colder joy of saints.
I saw you happy in your garden; you were kneeling at the time.
Other explanations failed. At last it is said that war will be justified
By post-war justice. No one saw the crack begin to cross the ceiling at the time.
At your throat, just here, I place my signature pearl, this gem
Not stone but lovely nacre shed from irritation, unappealing at the time.
Margaret Peters Schwed
Nothing could have held her
this first season.
The young bitch breaks easily through the screens
knowing I am this only,
to the call
Yet a long time later
when we find her
trotting on an unfamiliar road,
ear torn, paws bloody,
body thin, mud-spattered,
her muzzle lifts
as if she also knew
I am more than this.
It's not desire
that turns the whip-thin branches red
Nevertheless, such a red, or lavish purpling—
and at the wagging tips
such swollen buds
No, this March wind
rocking possessively in the treetops,
stripping the unresisting garden from its frost
with tongues of rain
and a steadiness of purpose
that opens soil,
cannot be innocent.
Look how the widow reveals her strategy,
sticking to the present tense:
He is, he is, he is
How else could it be,
the longing of the living for the dead?
~ . ~
Mary Austin Speaker
She was sick of being in her body.
It slumped, its weight was lump and heft.
In her body, she was unwilling
mechanic; she polished gaskets
and spun levers full of grease,
hammered spoon-shaped parts
to fit their coverings. She wrote,
Dear so and so,
My body hurts. Its feet have decompressed
and no longer fit inside their shoes.
Everything is loud: the satellites whir,
the flowers open and close, and I
am here to tell you, the humidity in
this town is unbearable. There is no one
to call late at night. Now, a jackalope—
there's a body. Mythic stranger
in the desert, harbinger of good luck,
Each year it wins the high jump.
The envelope was sealed and sent
to a large city in the Southwest.
Upon finding the jackalope in her bedroom
clattering inside the mirror she exclaimed
Finally. Her tools fell to the floor
with as small a sound as they could make.
Her feet began to thump. Her hair
itched and disappeared. She jumped
lifted gravel from a deserted parking
lot, and rained it down on the empty spaces.
Nothing could stop it.
~ . ~
A Look at the Moon
Reflecting a far-off, foreign fire,
The moon, I imagine, hungers for young men
As she lingers palely on the fire escape,
Feeling a fever she can't escape.
Does she, like Eos, swoop down for her man
And carry him off to an airless lunar cave
For blood transfusions? Can she speak to him
Without sound waves? Do her vine-like hands
Amuse him with their insincerity?
Her thin moonlight barely casts a shade.
She pulls a little, and the suicide rate goes up.
I see a skull bombarded by meteors,
Pockmarked by celestial smallpox, scars
To read and misread. The morning blunders in.
She shuffles off furtively, the air burns blue,
And the volcano on the horizon erupts with news.
(Prior publs.: The New Criterion; Seven Horizons)
About inspiration the Old Masters
Were never wrong. How well they understood
Its dependence on hard labor! As Maestro Segovia
Once said, they painted angels climbing up Jacob's
Ladder, rung by rung, though they had wings.
(Prior publs.: Poetry; The Poetry Anthology, 1912-2002)
~ . ~ . ~