We come back from the madness to find the broken room
with its lives—the screams flung back to corners with the
smashed glass and the shock of eyes—the pool of horror
dried without an image.
We walk carefully among the memories and do not speak
of them—we never know how long we will stay—or what
to clean, or throw away. The love we say is not a fragile
thing—it takes its punishment and waits its turn.
We mend ourselves with bloodless thread and needles
found among the missing buttons and the knives. The
eggshells crushed at last, we can abandon them.
Sane for awhile, we slip our shoes beneath the table
with the spills of wine and crumbs of crackers.
THE LONG QUARREL
No morning kiss. Each wants the other different. He is
verbal; she is mute—Jack Spratt and wife, at odds—both
wanting lean; both wanting fat. No compromise. Love is
a word on a sampler—her old needlework. Their habits
hold them together for the sake of the mirror, streaked
with tears. No morning kiss. They manage to cough apart.
Lukewarm cups of coffee warm each sullen mouth. In
little scraps around them: the morning paper, the unfin-
ished poetry, news and clues—both reading different
meanings into each, inter-merging into different rooms.
THE OLD LOVERS AT SUNSET
The old lover faces into the sunlight and sees his old lover
in last silhouette, and thinks how this blindness fastens beauty
to an old regret, and notices how his own arm is still attached
to some failing gesture as he reaches for a word, and how her
hair is wild against the sky as she turns away, and how his
eye—through a blear—sees how far the dusk is from the dawn,
though how similar the tone of light is, just as a thought is re-
collected in time to fill a conversation.
And she, in her dark grope of vision, notices how he wears
another rage of dying color on his face, and how his eyes burn
through her as he lowers his arm and finds another silence, and
they stand for a moment, like this, full of time and lack of time,
and some shadow crawls between them, like a dog, and licks
their shoes which blend into the grass, and a bird flies by, oh,
just in time to save them.
THE HAUNTED MOONLIGHT
It was so long ago, the house barely remembers them now,
how they tolerated each other—the house and the family—
temporary to each—
or were they all a dream?, the house wonders—there were
so many—years of them, as long as the house could remem-
ber. But they were the last, their vestiges still here, scattered
sullen things, breathing darkly.
The house twitches in the sunlight and aches in the rain.
The ROAD CLOSED sign is broken, lying carelessly about,
somewhere in the weeds, like the road.
It’s a wonder that the old gnarly tree still lives, though some
of its limbs are broken from the summer weight of its unfallen
leaves, an old swing hanging by one rope. Stubborn old tree.
The house can still feel the walls shudder from its histories—
none of them happy. It’s a wonder the visiting winds haven’t
blown it away, though the weight of worry still holds it here—
a little tired of something—pondering and lamenting through
Funny how no one ever wonders at the attic faces that distort
when the shadows shift; and how no one answers when the
voices speak—alone or at each other, and how the broken
window glass seems to like the exchange.
And the house wonders, too, why they used to call it The Old
Haunted House, though it rather likes the name and helps it
along by staying spooky and mysterious in the gregarious
Could it be the art of this silence
this oblique discovery
this ravel of light in a thin doorway
this sound in the shadows on a violet evening?
Could it be some errant ghost of sorrows
lingering— reminiscing—reluctant to go,
the last entreaty of some dead love
lifting its hand and turning toward another
who is lifting a hand and turning,
wing-soft with yearning?
But is this only a simple haunting
gone astray on a rainy evening
causing its unrest
and altering everything by its old refusals
altering the simplest of meanings?
You do not wish to intrude.
You bid them go, fragrant with weeping,
the soft rain penetrating all disguises,
and shadow by shadow
they fold their simple wings
and walk into the emptiness of each other.
After “Mourners in half light” by Carol Frith
Here where mourners struggle in the half light
of your poem, I remember the occasion of life.
Words are not that different, you remind me.
They are common to the errant usage of love
and how it endures. The light is so artificial here,
I marvel, so thin and transparent along the edges.
You murmur that darkness is always the reason:
bracing the energies—building the center
with a constant treading. Then how, I ask,
can you explain that color—and that color,
blurring by at the speed of slowness—
slow enough to wonder at the strangeness,
You tell me that color always moves like that . . .
like that soft goldness . . . and that thin silvering.
When will we truly find each other, I question.
You hear me and mention the time spent
in dreams —in conjurings and forgettings—
all that will evolve into all that we ever wait for.
In the certain vanity of oblique time,
sent forth to claim you from your
errant mind on its false journeys—
back and forth from real
to conjured acts of your reality—
how do you count the fraying hours
that are night—
or wasted ones
of days that pull you forward
into repetitious, common grays?
Monotonies. Oh, you are right
to not stay in the pull of moments
that persuade you deeper into
their design—which is to take you
deeper into that abyss
Picture them as servants of despair
whose only work is that
of guiding you
into the dreaded emptiness you know
is there. They were as you:
immortal to the core.
Now look at them—transparent
and bereaved—with but one mission more.
LIKE THE WHALES
“So often it happens that the time we turn around in
soon becomes the shoal our pathetic skiff will run aground in,”
Like the whales
in their piteous floundering in errant waters
like those we find our own selves caught in—
our risen sympathies, our hearts made tender again—
the cruelty of nature—the mystery of self-destruction.
How wildly we suffer for them, their huge condition,
what we would solve, if we knew how.
And now we watch and wait—
watch the news of them
unfold and wonder
they will find release back to huge waters.
Oh, do allow the use of huge again
to offer them assistance, the mind
too small to find a way back for them,
those driven creatures we newly love
as we sadly do ourselves. How can we know
what else to do but suffer for them. We are in
the same boatless situation—the same drowning,
life after life of us. We feel that under-water crying.
We answer and
MY QUARREL WITH DEATH
Death is stroking my arm, but absent-
mindedly. I want him to love me—to really care;
I want a commitment. He says my hair reminds him
of something, then he turns away to stare
into my mirror. I read his lips, connect to his eyes.
He says, Come. It is enough. I follow.
Death has recently been aloof. Morose and turning
a little bit mean. He says I remind him of his mother,
leaves for days at a time, then comes back, full of blame,
forages in the kitchen, then falls asleep in the chair.
I tell death I am Scheherazade. He says, Tell me a story.
I tell him the one about the fake owl
on the all-night theatre marquee, and then the one about
the real owl, going extinct
in the curb’s dead tree; I tell him about the dark hotel
where his childhood is. And he lets me live.
OUR QUARREL CHAIRS
We sit in our quarrel chairs.
One of us is weeping;
one of us is wrapped in a
web of silence.
Everything shatters around us
though the room does not change.
Discordance hangs like insanity.
Chaos thrills to our contribution.
The chairs pull apart
by the force of our difference.
We are spinning in helplessness.
We are on our way to emptiness
which opens and closes
Many, many thanks to Joyce Odam for her poems on our Seed of the Week: Ornery. Poems can be ornery indeed, cranky and secretive and as hard to get ahold of as slippery fish.
Conjuring: The performance of tricks that are seemingly magical, typically involving sleight of hand. Synonyms: magic, illusion, sleight of hand, legerdemain, prestidigitation. ’Tis the season: our new Seed of the Week is Conjuring. See if you can conjure some fine magic, then send your poems, photos & artwork about this (or any other) subject to firstname.lastname@example.org. No deadline on SOWs, though, and for a peek at our past ones, click on “Calliope’s Closet”, the link at the top of this column, for plenty of others to choose from
And lastly, our poetry community will be saddened to learn of the passing of Burnett Miller. Among his many other accomplishments, he and his wife, Mimi, have hosted the Sac. Poetry Center's annual fundraiser at Christmastime for many years. You'll be missed, Burnett! See www.sacbee.com/news/local/obituaries/article220042540.html/.
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