the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Spring 2007



Five from Janet Hamill

Body of Water

Standing by a body of water.   Moving or standing still
in the dark green depths my soul finds its own level

Lost in a mirror of infinite margins.   Ever sounding
on and on.   Perpetual arms pull me under light's silver sheets
tossed with wind and waves where a coiled muscle
gives up a perfect word.   I come with only a fever to offer
far from the dried carnations in summer's throat
and certain birds that pierce the air with an agonizing cry
I come to wash and be clean.   To drown in my immensity

Baptized by a spray of distant sky.   In sympathetic response
the surface repeats the hypnotic patterns of my longing
again and again.   Swimming out to the breaking pages before me
with only a parched fountain to offer.   Far from the sun's
entrenched lullaby of insect music and the worried sleep
that parts with a film of sweat and dust.   I come to be carried
away through the charitable doors that open on the shore


Giza: Pyramids in a Storm

Giza: Pyramids in a Storm
Janet Hamill

Dark Skies

No wind or current.   Carrying a weight through the lower waters

How far they are from paradise.   In the grass at the end of the parking lot
a handful of magi rowing a boat through a neglected passage of longitude
dressed like mendicants.   Fallen from an elevated oasis. Without turbans
of gold or embroidered coats.   Only faded linen replicas of leopard skins

Behind them the eastern night.   The guard dogs at the burial grounds
barking into the empty tombs where the stars of summer were interred
in rows of glass coffins.   Stars from the pale blue wings of a swan
stars to move the rocks and trees with songs.   The dolphin's stars

Now missing from the fresco over the city.   The dipper's silver goblets
overturned where last the supper sat.   A crystal cob-webbed chandelier
in an infirmary of pigments.   Bowls of dust flooded with light
and scraps uneaten

Spots of a thousand eyes.   Dropping like flies.   Dropping like flies


Nine Card Spread

There's a deck of cards face down on the table.

Will the night's apocalyptic starfish still swim in the stream
circling the lady's waist?
Will her garden always yield pearls of jellied moon
ripped from the side of florescent sharks?
Will her walls anchored in the sea floor uphold trellises
laced with continuous light?

There's a deck of cards face down on the table.

Will the lady find herself hanging upside down in a window
on the other side of the sun?
Will the fool in her fall on the swords protruding from the drapes
of the covetous city's drawing room?
Will the pride of lions in her shoulders bear the weight
of her own dark angel wounded in the rain?

It's in the cards.   It's not in the cards.
The heart of a mandolin hums in the hand.
The jacks are holding oracle bones
in the pockets of their suits.   It's in the cards.
It's not in the cards.   Past and sudden
revelations bring the house tumbling down
around the Queen of Clubs so pressed for time.
It's in the cards.   It's not in the cards.
The present portends stasis and flush sails
picking up wind in the eyes of diamonds
looking out on the joker's wild eternity.

There's a deck of cards face down on the table.

Will the bridge spanning the abyss be there going and coming
from the lady's armchair to the rim of the crowd?
Will she divine a way with more than string or ribbon
to harness the dragon appearing in her field?
Will she learn to dance with her head brushing the clouds
and her feet patterning figure eights in clover?

There's a deck of cards face down on the table.



Spellbound. words escape me.   going out as if a flame
extinguished. my capacity to want anything

In this transport the temperature is dropping.   below the roof
the mane of a nameless horse.   tossed back among the waves
in your eyes.   the blue heaven and the open sea
bringing the sundered night to an end
in the web of separate things
the flight of the night's lost bird is ending
on the most remote corner of the world
an explosion in me only.   lying in the ashes of a dress
my ember wings make a last fluttering gasp
knowing they've seen enough.   downstairs
the floor is covered with a carpet of bleeding prayers
and the walls and ceilings take on its glow
no other hand but yours reaches out of the sky-drifts
to check the fire.   no other hand

Spellbound. words escape me.   going out as if a flame
extinguished.   my capacity to want anything

In this transport the temperature is dropping
in a cold ray of moonlight
on your bed
I pass away
from head to foot
in the fortress of your aloneness


The Green Harmonica

The mouth begins a movement
along the orbits of celestial bodies
along the roof of the house of angels
along the line of least resistance
notes correspond with the heart's sudden ocean
conquering the walls
the breath inhales
a chord of joy and relief
unlocks the lid of longing
along the length of the green harmonica
green channels of distance flooded

The mouth begins a movement
a moment of hesitation
takes off with the speed of transient stars
and souls pursue their instinctive sail of the universe
green glasses shatter
green bar lights make the mirrors shine
green of the concrete floor
the breath exhales
trailed by a string of the brightest lanterns
breath that reaches the darkest corners of the room
breaks in the hollows between the reeds

Green wings beating against the ceiling
along the boulevards of the Milky Way
along the length of the green harmonica

Janet Hamill: Poet and impressario Bob Holman has called Janet Hamill "our Baudelaire."  She is the author four books of poetry and fiction: Troublante, The Temple, Nostalgia of the Infinite, and Lost Ceilings. Her work has been anthologized in Up Late: American Poetry Since 1970, Deep Down: The New Sensual writing by Women, Living With the Animals, and Will Work for Peace. Among the numerous magazines and journals her work has appeared in are BOMB, City Lights Review, Long Shot, Exquisite Corpse, Café Review, and Gargoyle. Janet often performs her work with her backing band MOVING STAR, named after one of her poems, and conducts writing workshops that explore Surrealist techniques. Janet's website is: Listen to Janet Hamill read:


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