RICHARD MEIER'S first book of poems, Terrain Vague, was selected by Tomaz Salamun for the Verse Prize and will be published Winter 2000-1 by Verse Press. Other work has recently appeared in Fence, Paris Review and American Letters and Commentary.


We couldn't find the coffin,
like a boat that had drifted.
We drifted before she died,

on the boat with the woman who died.
It seemed to us like drifting, seaward
breeze singing, a zig-zag from open to open.

Her curse for the shore, she captained. A common
maneuver. We learn later.
So when we had had it

the coffin was polished,
sealed white like the boat's outer hull,
inner curve of a shell. An inside and outside.

Then not lost and we'd lost it.
Charlene, what a strange woods we'd arrived in,
a bright day almost to the middle,

your sense of destination, my second confusion,
and nothing to be seen. The signal lights foundered
in a green sun. The brothers years

after building boats.


From the air we reeled
her where light as a tree she floated.
Rooted in air, given up root.
The lost was light was
our dream's logic.

We thought, and we thought she had a root
in the Sunday sea, her historical,
the promenades in endless dresses,
imagined miles of petticoats, of which we reminded her.
Because if she was familiar, our parasol hour.

In that thought we could have her.
There wasn't a sky that I can remember
rather a white that held us together,
finial gauzes. The sea and sand were
fashioned. The sky unfolded.

Her presence was an argument
we made her, she against us. We felt her
unsteady, sandy skin. The wind scurried
around our ankles a cutting. Particular,
crowd. Her guise and distance.

Her comprehension, as I am recording,
was sand furrowed by the waves slipping -
our will the whitecaps splitting -
out of reach.
Her white head held our hands. Our root

dreamed in sand. Our thunderous our
constant we learned her
like the waves' dumb speech - she all the we
the sea couldn't enter into her -
white-wash reduced to whisper,

the beach the barrier.


Black-tied, blond, uniformed. . .women?
The happy hour bedlam rang foreign,
our waitress we pondered, doppelgangered? Yet couldn't,
the second wrinkled, in time's one track
not possible. Our dead isn't healthy, scarred, New
Year toasting with hoisted gold champagne;
regard not memory's furious provisioning.

One comfort's finished. I'll have. . .Then some
imitation drink arrives and it's drunk.
Reach beyond, the pastor had implored,
the grief elf in the night will fabricate you shoes
from memory-skin to vanish in. You'll have the shoes.
But we're not Episcopalian. We sobbed. The music, faux . . .
Hawaiian? swelled saccharine, swabbed our dolor.
To sweet slumber we staggered, no guise for her getaway. Still,

morning, like a forgotten order, whumped
atop the bed. Who takes the blame? Day dawned on us,
another of its perfect fits. The body sheathed, seethed
in golden light, as in the night when shaded shells
and driftwood, glued lamp-like, ugly-honest,
interrupted the hand's ontological flailings:
hoping to hide, needed light, naked or not. Summing up:

I had thought she was the same person. Me too.
The memorial echoed, resurrectionless, through the forest.
Gone bird, dreamed song. In the end
her own heart beat her as we felt her,
too fast for such shoes, and feeling forced
ourselves into them. A pair synthetic. Genuine leather.
Which still real, which excessive to wear?


Windshield wiper fluid, buy a house,
the total conception is the sister
beats the toddler weeps
the mother scolds the sister whines
the baby screams in wonder
now tell me is that naturally
normal, or unnaturally natural, you who stripped for nature (me),
too qualified to judge, likewise lack of bodkin. Thinking
of discipline
isn't, any more than your own bitter
end, or theirs, or this's
is inured by the insurance. I never handed in. The sun shines up
and under the haze we feel so hemmed
and blue-white in, as in the hound
the eyes empyrean blue and cream
staring undisturbed by pupil
stopped us, not him, from seeing.
What to make of proved a good dog also?


The car ran backward down the street.
Eventually came in on a horse, like a god kept going.
In his absence the ravens dominate with calls of
cause the little birds fear, and their makers,
knowing the past now is everything the tar pit
said it was, e.g. beautifully preserved bones
and thanks to the absence of oxygen. The orange walls of the hospital
had us feeling a little sick on the edge of our seats,
the clumsy depiction of the violence getting to our hearts.
It was just the way we would have done it, backyarded,
the sheets torn from the beds of our neighbors
as our own, only to have it end up filed
down in the basement with the fear of human contact.
To be living in those times when a bare leg's gray hairs
write your screams into the concrete. The soul bears a double imprint
is the point they match to both your leather feet.


The apples refuse to extinguish.

Green apples in the rain
and the no more sun
are the dwarf green sun
of an overgrown tree
selected for its dwarfness.
There's a pattern, like in stars
one sees an already ended kind.
The yesterday of beds
and shortened legs.

I claim the tree was tired, claim the apples
claimed the light, samed the sun
down. I claim it's not deliberate
for my opportune,
my harbored song.
Their yellowed green
sang the flesh was uncontainable,
correctly chartreuse, and variable color.
I claim
the flesh that's incontainable.

The morning consists
of what's gone and stamped
upon my face the sound
of zero apples.
What I can't stand is another
God-proof or human error.
The voice from the above parlor
is interrupted splat, the crack and the slap
of there goes another one crap
on the concrete exactly like a face
searched for its victimhood.

I laughed because my side
could split, because out in that
flesh splat I was spoken, naturally bespoke.
But I admit my head's intact,
admit I got a hole to give,
pleading who's lost and whose apples,
and whose wasn't even his.