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poetry

“In this little urn is laid/Prudence Baldwin once my maid.”–Robert Herrick

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1.

Her socks like withered lampreys

Sit on the sill to dry and drenched

In last night’s fog. Here’s a box

Of hers found yesterday: a fishing fly, a whiskey

Cork she must have sniffed to reminder her of her favorite.

 

This is her hunting blade and I imagine

It shimmying up the abdomen of a dangling fawn—

Serrations like a line of thumb prints—

Her wrist jack-hammering like a sewing

Machine needle as she smoked and sucked a sugar cube.

 

Suturing or slicing, who knows what

Came to mind as she looked past the feminine-

Curved dish liquid bottle at the bucket of gore

On the porch: crimson-filmed, coiled,

Blood pooled around pale dorsals….

 

Perched like a gable, her paperback’s

Arched spine’s on a toppled

Tumbler with a copper-colored line

Of liquor in its beveled esophagus. A pillow feather

Like a burst firework, in a breeze we don’t see, tosses on and off.

2.

Where the hillside doglegs, in the valley’s

Crease, lights go on in the three-storey town;

Above arcs a still-lit sky, purple seeping

In at the circumference. Faint stars,

Cloaked destinies, and constellations are

 

Bright smear:  the horse, a carousel stallion

On a pole under a dusty tarp,

Awaits clearance. A rider

Is pedaling fast down the hill, abandoning caution

To trust no pair of headlights will cross her in advance

 

Of the car rounding the turn. Headphones clamped

To her ears trail wisps and coattails of rhythms

Dissolving like intentions in her wake while beneath

The whole settlement quakes with a purpose only she

Perceives. Peacock feathers like eccentric skeletons

 

Of brief-lived species are what she thought of

When she set the house on fire. The spiral

Of her descent tightens to a point at the police

Station. She dismounts, climbs the stairs;

A message is clenched in her fist.

3.

What enables coming-into-being? Disregard

For the potency of another? Subordination

Of peers? Casual acquaintances reassigned

To persons of interest?

Her evolution required this and one extra item:

 

Sacrifice, he thought, wandering the arson scene,

The lawyer who convicted her. Some victory:

A confession in the form of a copied couplet,

Folded on itself—Siamese Ws—un-accordioned

On the desk of the police chief. She’d biked

 

Down, appeared in a mist of secondhand

Beats. She smelled of  accelerant.

Over her shoulder, above the crown

Of the hill, feathery orange flames stroked a black

Smoke column. An exotic pet bird beating its wings,

 

Lost in a living room curtain, thought the officer at first,

The lawyer guessed. He fished up a cigar box,

Tipped it back and forth; cinder-skinned water

Tossed and the finest hairs of a fly

Gathered in fright wig points.

4.

The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution,

These are documents I know little about

But like the sound of:  start your own country

By  saying so; a kit for constructing

Society. “Let’s be Cubans!”

 

She announced one night after dinner.

I was two whiskeys down and one in the wings.

“What the fuck?” “No really,” she said.

“I’ve been reading about it. Let’s be

Ngangas.”  And she hauled out a dented, aluminum

 

Flower pot, cigars, a lighter, and on phony

Parchment, from a jackdaw file she’d stored

Since middle school—Writings of the Founding

Fathers—the one with the familiar

Insurance company logo. The other resembled

 

A product assembly guide, or a loan

Agreement: all numbered clauses. “Tear them up,”

She said. I laughed, shredded and tossed

Them into the pot. She lit the cigar, puffed, one hand halving

The smoke, scrolling like ink in water.

5.

Not to love the future is un-American. Successions

Of fireworks launch, climax, flatten:

Bright patterns of shatter, crisscrossing

Arcs shimmering in Zorro signatures. Before

They shower, a kind of palmistry is practiced.

 

Incandescence, ascent—what’s left behind’s

What these stars foretell. Francis Scott Key,

Bombers alighting for Bagdad—“a  sweet,

Beautiful sight”—our brightest hopes are always dashed,

Stripes with ellipses, trailing off….

 

What’s unsaid? To be born over again’s

The only promise. To survive on death.  I work to remember

My vows: Behold, I have graven thee on the palms of my hands;

We hold these truths to be self-evident.

I do. History is clouds.

 

They lay on their backs that Fourth of July

Watching fireworks from the beach.

The sand got sexy with her, as it does with me,

He thinks, a little avalanche below the crease in her crotch

As a spider splatters its egg, radiates, and sinks in sulfur.

6.

In this big box store, an aisle of widescreen

Flat panel TVs transforms

To tunnel walls, the duplicate heads

And rippling texts contractions

That propel her up, force her forward.

 

Not the lack of faith but the damage done

When faith persists. Not abundance

But paralysis at its brightly-colored options,

Burst balloon skins you can’t slough

Off but accumulate, like toy burdens.

 

Below  toenail diadems, she sees her herself

Squirting  lighter fluid zigzags. She strikes;

Combustion races the along the lines

Of its biography, consuming stuff:

Carcass, whiskey, dish soap, lover.

 

What it’s like to be born, radiant,

In mid-air, and hover? To be old like a star,

Tingling with history, a kiss of ash, one looped moment,

She wonders as she greets her first headwind, like standing

At the top of a hill and waving at a cyclone….

7.

She could go anywhere, she could go either way.

She’s been a long time gone, she’ll be here to stay.

She is weightless. She weighs

Her options. She’s exhausted.

She is radiating. She is purpose

 

Waiting  above the sleeping town.

She is witness to the drained

Whiskey glass, and, in the wake

Of the passerby, the brief orbit

Of the down satellite. All she has is consequence,

 

Stuff, and absences. She’s in search

Of the source that brought her here. What she finds:

It is forever was. And over there.

And she’s  behind.  And aftermath. But,

She forgets, and when numbers descend from heaven

 

She picks up one and puts it in her mouth.

She starts to sing and the music of words unfamiliar to each

Other, congressed for the first time, is like

The muscular crook of an arm creased

Around her neck, then rising, then falling, with her breath.

 

 

Three Dots