Featured in this issue:
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LOUIS ARMAND is an Australian artist and writer living in the Czech Republic, where he teaches philosophy at Charles University. His work has appeared in journals including Sulfur, Poetry Review, Heat, Stand and Meanjin. His books include Seances (Twisted Spoon Press, Prague), Erosions (Vagabond Press, Sydney) and Inexorable Weather (Arc). He is poetry editor of The Prague Revue and Plastic.
a scar of red granite cuts across the landscape like an
open wound - or inner seam of flesh in the rock
[in the word? [that touches it? that it seems to repeat
but to which it bears no resemblance: the interior sea
the desert ringing in the heart [in the verb? in the open
wound, a scar of red granite (cutting across a landscape)
[metaphor? as you approach it visually & from a distance:
totem of static space horizontal & parallel that speaks
from a pre-historic yearning of water of artesian plains
far in the substrata--flowing out from a glacial depth like
blood or dawn [merely? to vanish on contact with air -
the shadow-play of crows spelled by myth the bone-brittle
mirage of [finitude? beating wings low over the salt flats
& drawn down into the entropy of their spiral
COMPOSITION [AFTER BOYD, NOLAN]
fixed in mundane matter the prone body -
penumbral man - dissipates, the trace of an
utterly contingent "this" . . . or dispossessed
& devoured by space - convulsive - the
post-galvanic twitchings of (trans-)coded
flesh? dead-level plains with crow &
skeleton tree, concealing an interior zone
of primordial elements - inorganic - sub-
stance as arcane as salt sulphur mercury -
rising phallus-like from the white drought-
cracked soil - the helioid genitals of a
mechanised underworld - infernal seeds
groping upwards to petrified light, flowering
in the negative arborescence of [bushfires, etc.
an ashtree - stand there in its
shadow the cradled death of leaves
in autumn branches already black
when you arrive at that point of
departure finally will you have
a name then? transcendence?
will you know anything more
than the last winter? the dumb
apocalypse of an ashtree -
of one standing in its shadow
between the white lines of a window
or horizon - & drawn almost
to the needle-depth of an eye
that perceiving it once believed it real
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PETER FINCH has written more than 20 books of poetry, and compiles the poetry section of MacMillan's annual Writer's Handbook and the self-publishing section for A&C Black's Writers' & Artists' Yearbook. He is treasurer of the Association of Little Presses and is now head of the Welsh Academi, the Welsh National Literature Promotion Agency. He lives in Cardiff, Wales.
EARLY VIEWS OF AFRICA
In my house my father loved the hymns on the radio. He's sing along waving his arms like a conductor while wearing a tea-towel to stop the potatoes he was peeling from staining his pants. No one went to church except me. I was sent. I would split my collection: half for them, the mission; half for me. Mine I would spend on Black Sambo bubble gum. Four for a penny. Worth more. There were planes in the skies in those days. Huge multi-engined fortresses that droned and lumbered and small stubby crosses that flew the loop over the playing fields and dived under the telephone wires just to impress my mother. When we sat for dinner with the gum stuck by the left table leg my mother would be flushed with god for she'd been singing too. My father would tell me, 'You eat this up, son, there are starving people in Africa.' I imagined them thin and pale with no crosses and never singing. On their radios would be the thrub of ritual drumming. When the collection got big enough we sent it to them. A Postal Order with a picture of our Queen and some stamps stuck on to make up the value. Valid six months, after that it would turn to dust. What did they do with it when they got it? They spent it on planes of their own and flew them in roaring circles and flaming loops over the endlessness of their jungles.
FOOD DEPRIVATION AND LIFE EXPECTANCY
Assuming that you are at all concerned you should think very seriously about the social and psycological implications of living many decades as an elderly person. Do you rll? En 100 ssk. If rmmmm is nn vig vig oldolder older extremely difficult. For example is 'undernutrition without malnutrition' womb achi ngly ness ll calor ll ns ns? Cd b. You w dn t nnn rr wor encid. Th essential f at tuf lof dic mm. Overt psychotic increase the large huge canvas yes indeed. Kp bdy ww ww. Kp bdy ww ww way. Dn. Amts of components even material decrs. Nut, fruit and veg, tt ny 1200 sk. We are generally programmed to age and eventually di. Mmm. Mxi mmmm. Vn ills lllllls ills cd b undertake ndert box buried vn vs burn instead. Gen lly yy sk hope his ths is ss kf ven the older wmhmm cra crik crok skn scll l. With a hammer. Carbno ss yik perso ven wei dn own d ev the weird cd wei too long. Card. S won ss t. Drk drk lls evn this deprivation thn evn this.
Nml ven free accs ess cs ess ood ood. Lll twenty-seven rim bo drnk illus ease pain. Cd free veg verg puls n fbr for months. Not enough egg. Survery dark dk k dark n sss. Eat less for most of your life. Lot less. Best.
Bendigeidfran overlooked the sea
they could see the ships
When they saw
near at hand
certainly they had
not seen them
The ships were
blessed by God
This was certain
God was near
was he not?
The brocade and the shields
were pointing upwards for peace
These are ships
but we cannot see
It was an early Zen problem
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ROBERT GARLITZ lives and teaches in central New Hampshire. His poetry has appeared in Sierra Nevada Review and The Lucid Stone.
Opulent solitude passes in the fifth watch
of the night. From the stones and roads
you can hear the far centuries, that state
of affairs after the lens has been broken.
The face of the hidden pilgrim, only superficial
minds approach with delicacy. Flatter the hyena
within, and distill from the original outbreak
of goodness, the lifted lily of benediction.
Beadwork prepares us to create music
stronger than the innocence of the world.
You can feel the numinous ways
of making new geometries from endurance.
Smile and savor those bitter points of despair
in the balls of the feet. Then dance with the impulsive
sorrow of awe. Banal secrets show us how
to adapt to this room. If we move toward ladders,
paint black ecstasy on the walls and floors, volatile
white illusions tempt us to cower. The flux of dawn
grays by suffering heretical comparisons.
DAILY MOISTURE BIRDS
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KEVIN HART's new book of poems Wicked Heat (Paperbark) was recently released. He is Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia.
O come, in any way you want,
In morning sunlight fooling in the leaves
Or in thick bouts of rain that soak my head
Because of what the darkness said
Or come, though far too slowly for my eye to see,
Like a dark hair that fades to gray
Come with the wind that wraps my house
Or winter light that slants upon a page
Because the beast is stirring in its cage
Or come in raw and ragged smells
Of gumleaves dangling down at noon
Or in the undertow of love
When she's away
Because a night creeps through the day
Come as you used to, years ago,
When I first fell for you
In the deep calm of an autumn morning
Beginning with the cooing of a dove
Because of love, the lightest love
Or if that's not your way these days
Because of me, because
Of something dead in me,
Come like a jagged knife into my gut
Because your touch will surely cut
Come any way you want
Midnight, she's up and walking out the back
In bare feet, looking at a winter moon,
With flat chinotto in a coffee mug.
(I'm half-asleep and slowly stretching out
Down the hypoteneuse of our big bed.)
It's three o'clock: she's reading magazines
And eating stale risotto con funghi
Straight from the fridge with that fierce chili sauce.
(I'm pulling down a pillow to hold tight
That smells a little of her new perfume.)
At five she's dragged the blankets over her
And left a radio just barely on
And, yes, forgotten to turn off a light.
(I wake up saying I'll do anything
And find the cat is staring in my eyes.)
By six the sun is playing with our blind
And children are all back inside their beds;
Somehow the bedroom smells of wine and rice.
(Still half-asleep, my hand goes home to her,
She wakes up saying she'll do anything.)
sleep, my hand goes home to her.
from THE HALL
All summer long, the smell of gums in heat,
And every night I've thought of that old hall
On Tavistock, left on a scrap of land
Near Oxley Station:
those Inala boys
Gave a new coloured kid what for, near there,
While he was waiting for the late train home.
That was in January '69,
And when, come light, they found him in long grass
Around the back, 'he was set neat and still,'
The local paper said. There were tyre marks,
And someone found a knuckleduster there.
It happened - broke out in a time and place.
A narrow building, made of great long planks
All painted pink: it stood on short, thick stumps,
CWA in ragged loops of white.
Some days that year, as summer dragged along,
I'd half-imagine other trains would come
With country women, yards of rusty white
All flapping round their ample calves,
Descending on the hall from Quilpe, Miles,
Their bags stacked up beside a sugargum.
Some days, I'd wander down the hill from school
With a warm girl just out from Surinam,
And take her round the back, in a wild patch
Of shade, and we'd sit there a quarter hour,
And I would run a finger up her leg
Until I touched her knee, while talking low
Of this and that,
right up from her white sock
So very slowly till I reached her knee,
And sometimes higher if her train was late . . .
The Missionary Baptist Church met there
On Sundays for some seven years or so:
Lost locals, mostly, and those homely folk
Straight out from Little Rock in Arkansas
Who sang us songs like 'Yield to Jesus Christ'
(The preacher holding up a 'Give Way' sign)
And bluesy southern hymns that squeezed the heart
On humid nights, after a thunderstorm.
There was a business man of forty-odd,
Red in the face, and running fast to fat,
Who quietly shook my hand while coming in
And let thick tears pour slowly down his cheeks
When the conversion hymn, 'Just as I am,'
Was struck up by the preacher's pretty girl
(A chord a finger wrong in the first verse).
But his long sermon was the hot event:
'Woe unto thee that scattereth abroad!'
The preacher cried one night, then flailed and wailed
And lost his way, and told that sinners spend
Eternity with fingers scratching boards.
I always thought the big red man would break
And stumble up the front, without one plea,
And say, 'I'm saved! Praise thee, Lord Jesus Christ!'
We'd all done that; we'd all been flicked by flame;
Even that woman with a touch of lace
Who lived alone on Cliveden Avenue,
Who'd drenched the preacher's vast white shirt one night,
Then turned to us, before the girl could stop,
And screeched, 'I've sinned against the Holy Ghost!'
She walked, less shaken than we were, straight back,
And placed her Bible firmly on her lap.
The preacher gave a few of us a lift,
Accelerating past the Greek cafe
(Inala boys with flicknives, cadging chips. . .)
And I sat near a girl who used lipstick,
And when we stopped outside that woman's house
That preacher went right in, and turned on lights,
And checked her cupboard slowly, dress by dress:
The two of us alone in his back seat,
Our fingers meeting somewhere near her leg;
The V-8 grumbling underneath us both,
The air on fire, lights clicking off and on. . .
So we run out of world, not time:
And even if we peel away
The morning light from dappled things
There is no chance that we will see
This fountain pen left on a chair
For what it is. The world is love
No matter what we make of it,
No matter how we cut it up:
The pen must know a hand on it.
The great truths live just out of sight,
Past what I know of you, or you
Of me: so let's be calm and kind
Until the great truths come to us
In that gold light we've heard about
And pens fly quickly to our hands.
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BRIAN HENRY edits Verse, and was among the finalists for the 1999 Yale Younger Poets Series. His first book Astro-naut (Arc) was recently released in the U.K., and is forthcoming in both American and Slovenian editions.
AFTER READING CHARLES WRIGHT,
I GO OUTSIDE TO THE DEAD RIVER
Killer waxen stalks flourish in today's moribund aura,
A lowdown sun cannot muscle its way anywhere
But to my backyard, rife with others' litter and domes:
A pocketful of pain and more pain
as the doctor prescribed.
The pigeon that followed me from the last hill has dropped beneath
My line of sight,
breaking its flight into emptiness -
The orchard conceals assassin past behind apples
Dwarfed by my shadow
and demolished by disregard.
My last chance for a reckoning lost in memory's closet,
I walk the river frozen in its tracks, no axis
Of sugar here, no altius of grace or gratitude,
As CW said,
nothing but light and the lack of light.
It's that time of year, according to the farmer's almanac,
For the worst in men to surface
and I mean daily;
Partial explanations, the burnt man told us, can't crack
The day open
so it's best to hold your self to yourself's self.
The abyss returns into its own absence, divests itself
Of emptiness, milking the fastened darkness stellar
Until a weighty apple shatters the ice below:
A ripple from here to nowhere,
mournful white road to nowhere.
MY PINE CONE WAYS
The cicada hum, the crack and splinter
of words from well-wishers, condolence-
givers. The high-five on a Friday afternoon.
"These are the rooms we inhabit,
the corners we have kissed ourselves into."
Love comes in the mornings, lingers
until 11:30 or so, then lunch: bagel, lox and onion
for you, almond waffles with Freestone peaches for me.
"These acts of communion leave us bereft,
so to speak, mute and awkward,
all thumbs when dexterity is essential."
Rooms of varying sizes -
oval the most sensuous, of course,
then dodecahedral, triangular, octagonal
(in that order). The curves of plaster
are forever underrated in the roles they play.
The landlord confiscates the porch swing,
our security deposit dwindles into the red.
We line the kitchen floor with sod,
wait for the roots to dig in.
"Don't you see, these rooms of degrees unknown
feed into each other, occupy all our time,
our thoughts, pineal as they are."
"Don't include me in your pine cone ways."
A pellucid screen at the front door
waylays intruders, the blue light on the ceiling
a sure sign of privacy foretold.
We know we're safe in this stronghold.
The leaves sear into fresh soil,
print our faces in the ground.
The picnic has begun.
We stumble over the influx of pollen.
Swollen membranes will be our death,
the white-faced hornets in the shed our life.
To traverse the barren plain our goal,
the notion of common accomplishment
wanes in porchlight.
Our quadriceps ache and relief
is nowhere if not behind the shoji.
Your war cry -
"Onward megacephalics!" -
gets you past the gatekeeper
and into your lean-to.
"Just because" doesn't slip me
into the inner sanctum.
weigh heavy on us today.
We forget the lowest denominator
and its daring escape
into the populace - no escape
at all, just a numb feeling,
not unlike the slink
and slither of the insincere who rally
the forces for an unforeseen event.
"This is exactly
what many people do" your lament,
it brings the delivery boy
to his knees, wallet
proffered for the honor of such wisdom
from one so lens-poppingly
convex (like an eyeball) and concave
(like its socket). "The passage was difficult
but Lazarus arose on time."
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TIMOTHY LIU's books of poems are Vox Angelica (Alice James Books), Burnt Offerings (Copper Canyon Press) and Say Goodnight (Copper Canyon Press). His poems have appeared in journals including Denver Quarterly, Grand Street, Kenyon Review, New England Review, Paris Review and Ploughshares. Visit his website at euphrates.wpunj.edu/faculty/liut.
HOME OF THE BRAVE
reduced to rubble our democratic vistas unable to outlast far-right
terrorists who plan to poison water supplies as we wine and dine
in whistle stops trying to outbully operatic regicides curled inside
the tail of a treble clef floating on the outskirts of a forgotten town
where patriots bored from shooting at paper targets put complete
bomb-making guides online while orphans playing stick ball sift
through cases of crackerjack hit lists faxes anthrax sold by mail
some triggers and detonating fuses left inside that local ballot box
a handprint fossilized on a child's startled face a bout of fisticuffs
as witness to love's excess straddling another bride as the bouquet
flies ferruginous tresses spilling over marble fonts into some abyss
eleemosynary grunts instead of sermons on the mount as grounds
for divorce where orphaned souls stampede down ungulated clefts
bikini wax ripped off depilatory forms to appease an ultramontane
satrap instructed in orthography by missionaries caught red-handed
in compromised positions trying to micturate into the rutilant night
of a lover's eyes newly-minted in maternal din anxieties complete
with pink fiestaware jarring the hours a hundredfold where vocal
mutilations hover over a violin come unstrung no talk only grunts
washed up on shore all those hag-infested hours redolent with fog
her laughter's rickety bridge seldom crossed emotions clocking in
instead of punching out the taste of it percolating on that stovetop
licked by dawn by way of telegram a truce delivered yet somehow
always the wrong address the come-on instead of a goodnight kiss
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RUPERT LOYDELL is managing editor of Stride Publications. His recent books include Home All Along (Chrysalis), Background Noise 1-3 (tel-let) and Shadow Triptych (Maquette Press). He lives in Exeter, Devon, UK.
Why do you insist on the word poetry?
It is the simplest thing in the world.
What have you invented?
It is made up of borrowings and collages.
Is this how chance must be defined?
There are accidents always and everywhere.
Form is unique, it does not repeat itself?
I hope to let words exist without thinking about them.
What kind of audible results will be produced?
The air is filled with music we cannot hear.
How is sound dispersed?
In nature, at every moment, there is amplification.
What is this movement into the air?
Circles of sound, laughter, and language.
Who speaks in your inner chambers?
I prefer the notion of conversation.
What 'other' are you talking about?
A stranger at the natural limit of our vision.
Where does devotion come from?
From trying to find the point of balance.
Do you suppose that tranquility exists?
That's what the nothing is in between us.
What is the name of the noise of the rain?
We no longer know the exact definition of sadness.
ON & OF THE PAGE
of the way
of the wanderer
on its own feet
of the indefinite article
of internal rhyme
on syllable count
on the landscape
of the primitive
of the forgotten
on I can remember
of the oval head
of one body part
on the other hand
of things said
of a dark day
of fish, buffalo and bird
on her nature
of the associative
of the forgotten
of closed verse
of escape from
on the next page
of our assumptions
of invention and composition
of the final line
no essential truth
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PETER RICHARDS teaches at Tufts University near Boston, Massachusetts. His poetry has recently appeared in Harvard Review, Meanjin and Westerly.
WHICH OVAL HER MINISTRY
Which oval her ministry sought to ignore
depends on the crown she reneges
back to when cushions (dimples despondent)
suggest a rescinded corsage.
She decrees three ovals crushed inside another
might impact the flowers I shove
out past the dune eluded for days, we constrict
all the way blue into begun.
All the way blue into begun, teach me the circles
that erstwhile over the surf
a light to confide in. Light from her scepter
(some divers mistake it for depth)
bores past the seafloor cataracting with ovals.
From her problem shoulder
I see daring little corsets
bobbing in the moat.
I can wash myself in all
the hand-bitten mirrors
flicking from her tower.
Defender of lesser things,
even the seashell watches
over her shoulder.
Seashell listen to me -
hair without cunning
O hairs of creation.
Hand under hand
I climb down one of you
corrupting the hiss.
A THIRD TREE
It was I and not all the world who took the blow
from his ambient seizure. Like promise, like death
without meaning, like he came with always frank and sullen
precision and now off with some new need fulfilling my trance.
I was skilled at the moans and not just my last one
took up with his truly. Wilderness - the very word made us go wild
and feel like an island sang for the sea. For high tide I thought
all the figures and when I parcel paint on his shoulders,
I martial tribes on the rocks. There was always some way,
and this way the dust excites 'till the end. O we had sunrises
and such natural effects as a cowbell and wood violets
comprising the quiet. Where it put love to sleep I saw no good
reason proceeding and the death mask gardens can be.
Ours was always one part collision, two parts roam, and not even
this hurled city corrupts our all time fuchsia.
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SUSAN M. SCHULTZ edits Tinfish. Her recent publications include Addenda (Meow Press), Holding Patterns (Wild Honey Press, Dublin) and Aleatory Allegories (Salt, U.K. and Australia). A new chapbook is forthcoming from x-poesie of Prague. She lives in Hawai'i.
from MEMORY CARDS
Yank my chain. Pallid the leash-men. Spasm in the back spells nine, number so fine. Show me writing that is not narcissistic, that doesn't come from the hysterical female, the drunken male (elephant tusks and so on). She wants to call her thesis "the oppressed chick codes"; wonders if to feel guilty for laughing. The memoir as a form is like cinder, grows around an invisible yet empty center, caldera lacking heat. The horses are a magnificent line, my high school teacher said. And that aside from suicide, which the governor claims is "a selfish act." Who knows nothing, one imagines, of interminable pavement, the mind without prescription (New Zealanders "prescribe" books). We can't leave you here alone, my mother said. The man with an orange VW bus jumped from the ninth floor across the street from me in Makiki, and his body lay on the lot for hours. A white cloth covered him; there was blood on it. The man who helped in the yard wondered why I took it so hard. His father killed himself.
"My miserable life," he said and laughed. Arbiter of pronunciation, religious gunman! His shrill shirt ballooning, the poet falls to his death by water, prophesying the past as if it were his to spell. Anxieties not of influence but affluence; how to spend one's syntax otherwise than in the clear purchase of what means. To observe before the filters kick in is to be obscure, precisely because we're not there yet, at least not in language. "Now that's a bull ride!" the announcer shouts. Scalapino sees the orchid flapping, coal miners lining up like ants, but there's no basis for metaphor so even its tyrannies are erased. Replaced by formlessness within form, stylized chaos events like the Red Sox' latest loss, which can't be blamed on an umpire's angle of sight. The man in blue's invested in narrative authority; the fans throwing bottles are the avant-garde. One guard got in a fight with a member of the opposing team. "It's a pity someone has to lose," my mother always said.
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TOBY WALLACE is an Australian poet who has been traveling through Europe for the last two years. He is currently completing his novel The Characters. His poems have appeared in Meanjin and Verse.
SEED OF BOOK
It entered the city.
It has a day in the unequal game.
It's not a person, like the machine
that detects humans.
It has an endless image;
it has another image.
It will deny the city.
It entered the city.
It has a life that is without a word.
It's not an answer, like the future
that protects questions.
It has a story to tell;
it has another story.
It will deny knowledge of the city.
Why was it jealous?
It had a day to decide what to do.
It's not a problem, like the man
that incites murder.
It has a choice to make;
it has another choice.
It will betray the book.
It entered the city.
It has a life that is without a meaning.
It's not a child, like the seed
that rejects the book.
It has no job to do;
it has another meaning.
It will betray the idea of the city.
Endless the labyrinth that is a path and feverish
For loved is the fever, the self-effacing truly;
It talked divine and justly. The beginning :
Spaceless plain as a streak, man's freedom unmeltable;
The core is the adventure, the yield a sensual
Coat of the animal. Long enough is the lover.
And now in the city in immaculate, the form
A rest of his body, beneath its pure elaborate
That is the unclaimed fragment. The beginning :
Everything has changed, there is opening now
And a glove of process, which the stranger,
Which the stranger. . .which the gesture undoes
And now in the city, let us walk now
As if memory were an animal, there are none here
Anymore, no longer is the endlessness an image
For the watcher. There is nothing here, then;
And where is the animal, he is caught in the body
Of the fever, which may or may not subside.
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MATTHEW ZAPRUDER's poems are forthcoming in Quarterly West, Verse, Barrow Street and The William and Mary Review. His translations of the Romanian poet Eugen Jebeleanu, from his book Secret Weapon, have appeared in Verse, Meanjin and International Poetry Review, and will be appearing in subsequent issues of Salt Hill and Fence.
Sarah I never got to show you
the while you were leaving between us
and its table covered with versions
of continuing plastic flowers
once watered by laughter and choosing
(how is it now they are wilting)
or the shelves I fell down for an hour
lifting my eyes and handing them
to the student of normal psychology
who came to sit in your chair
and left with Logic
in his briefcase meowing
among a few signed scraps of regret
or what at last blossomed
instead of spring in the lot
across from our bed and its favorite
white widening into
and how I never was seasick
except on the sea
and never again while falling
I wanted to ask you.
But you were already dangling
above your Alps
in the gold claw of sleep.
Like a fallen climber
you were twitching
the white expanses.
Soon you will wake
among brilliant snowcaps
and take your tablets
of ice down into the world.
You will tap on the wooden
door of the border,
until they return
the face on your identification papers
and turn a blind eye
upon the cart you pull
creaking through the gate.
You will smuggle
yourself like a donkey,
then glint for years
in the grey canal,
living among an abandoned tree.
Only your fingers
warm and confused
will drowse on like stars
in your jacket lining thinking
how imagination troubles.
I wanted to ask
what to whisper to Sava
in the rowboat that knew me
when I was a taperless flame.
What are the terms
of the treaty you signed
among your old friends madness
What is the difference
I could easily rise at the foot of the bed
to say in a white prescribed garment
don't be afraid it is just
as you imagined
like me like sighing
into the next room
or had I not forgotten wickeder pleasures
I could whisper into the shaking ear
it's as if you've been shielding
your eyes in our pockets
until we need them to tremble
before the black wall of the mausoleum
until a visitor full of love
or boredom of wonder enforced
idly takes a name down
to hold it in mouth and elsewhere
unbeknownst stirs like a breeze
but truly I am made each time to forget
each time I find myself perched
at his feet stealing dreams
already on the way he opens his eyes
for a last time perhaps as a crow over
and over the terrible wheels perhaps
he needs to suffer a little more
in his white country without any snow
only alongside his shadow train
passes until he sees me
I am a flower a woman named
he is coming to claim me
just as he first stood under a tree
tall powerfully built glistening
with brass and bandolier
he loosens his grip on the metal bar
and towards me rises
we rise towards her
she died first
she said he was shining