Sharon Kraus’s books include Strange Land (University Press of Florida, 2002), which was a finalist in the 2000 National Poetry Series, and Generation (Alice James Books, 1997). Her poems have appeared in Barrow Street, Massachusetts Review, Georgia Review, TriQuarterly, Agni and elsewhere. She has received a fellowship from the MacDowell Colony, an Editors' Choice award from Columbia: A Magazine of Literature and Art, and a group of new poems were selected as a finalist in the 2002 Center for Book Arts Chapbook Competition.

How I wonder what you are (sung)

among the initial human impulses
     we sob when we wake        alone
   the light line of    bereft
      into which rises

                                        oh, that’s a scaffold
                    the building being built        bones
                                        (planks, sheeting)

you sob until you are joined

            [Where a week ago in a workday
             scaffolding snapped and a man
                    (he had been welding
             disparate parts into a)]

                        The boy’s watching builders, tools, the orange
                               earthmovers        one does not like to ask him to

                        sunder himself from the / beloved   rendering

Sometimes his eyes remain closed       as he cries with his mouth Mama-Mama

    what shape is permitted entry

                            but later, on the sidewalk, I am not that.
            Right breast stinging        bear the still-milk

Call him My child          what’s definite what’s possessive
                      [The windowframe in the wall           The man dying on the sidewalk
                                              and who to _____]

                        Inside artisans are painting clouds and a full
                            onto the night
                ( the sculptor does not die for her art     she makes
                         a stainless steel spider    The work is called “Maman” )

                          (up the ladder one lightly speckled painter
                              calls down He should be up here helping
                                           as though the boy (trans
                                                              fixed) cannot hear

the impulse is to gaze drinkingly upon the beauty
    or the ______    to stay at the feet of
where you cannot enter         its blue prelude )

call it loyal call it labile

                    finally one of us consents to go when Another says
                         Do you want to paint a moon?        Let’s go home then
                      and do that.

Study in Movement

The man punching holes in the air.
You would like to consult someone about this

urge to draw the veil before
your child
    has tasted too much madness
        (he’s eating tuna-sandwich on the summer

    When you pushed his shoulders back onto the bed
shouting Just go to sleep
        (But you had thought you could feed your child a different

How easy to pack up and leave yellow-shirted strangers                 [That he reaches out for you
    The boy, though, says “Man” furrowedly                         anyway instead         ]
        And the man lies down on his stone slab and says

You are familiar with the bursting out after a stillness
    Fill the toy with enough sand and the bucket tips to turn
     the wheel
    Your mother filled with her nine calm days would speed to her churning
     pool                                             [sparring hard against
                                                                            her shadowed child]

So you wipe his mouth slowly and mildly
push the stroller as though you feared neither ravings nor yourself


You lift the shirt over your face
to re-
appear. Which shows the child
how he might grow to love
your broken presence
He enjoys this gesture and uses it
to indicate his imminent departure.
He likes it when you call longingly for him.


So what’s the logic here?

Before all that afternoon
and in between the mother-burstings

he bent to the cosmos of the sidewalk ants
and would not leave them. The mother counseling gentleness,
mustn’t touch-ness. The ants
were hurrying off to get their lunch.

And before all that afternoon
the white-haired man on the subway
combing the thick strands
carefully with a plastic fork. White, a different white. His sack of clothes
at his feet. He’s watching his combing in a brass plaque
at the top of the subway stairs. If one had to do without mirrors. You hold the child up
to mirrors invariably saying Who’s that
to enact for him the pleasure of the first meeting.
Climbing toward West Broadway you want to enshawl the old man’s shoulders
with your inner arm, the soft you can muster,
“That’s lovely. That’s such nice combing.”

They’ve discovered eleven more moons
            clamoring around Jupiter’s knees. Which
were there all along.