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Friday, January 14, 2011

Goldfinches (Leigh Anne Couch)

The day was a goldfinch
beating wings
against a dirty cotton sky.
The sky swung low on the line.

My mother came to me,
an offering of her body. She
wasn't one to make such gestures.
My mother came to me, holding out

her left arm turned over,
soft underside, talcum-white.
She could have been a child. Look
she said, Look. But I was boxing

remembrances, worrying over what
I'd need, and nothing was here
in the scented damp around her.
The days were emptying,

self after self from her hands,
daughter, mother, wife, her fingerprints
slipped in someone else's milk after
years handling chemicals in the dairy lab.

Germs are everywhere, she'd say--
incubating in the ice cream, lurking
in lids and glasses. How could she sleep
through the furious racket

in my father's lungs, the merciless labor.
She came to me late that unquiet
summer when windowpanes screeched
and weeds withered at her glances.

I was the fruit that would not fall,
the sapling meant to stay faithful
to its roots, branch for branch.

For the settling of her fragile bones,
for the window-light stroking the bend
of her arm, for the warm blue pulse,

I would leave to find her in her father's
cornfield, the beautiful creases,
my mother's body filled with dirt.

Two girls, light, impossible,
roll through the furrows lengthwise,
close their eyes laughing,

pillow-feathers on a sheet
shaken out wave after solid wave
to the robust sky, like that forever.

Risk (Anais Nin)

And then the day came,
when the risk
to remain tight
in a bud
was more painful
than the risk
it took
to Blossom.

From the Cave (Audre Lorde)

Last night an old man warned me
to mend my clothes
we would journey before light
into a foreign tongue.
I rode down autumn
mounted on a syllabus
through stairwells hung in dog
and typewriter covers
the ocean is rising
I came on time
and the waters touched me.

A woman I love
draws me
a bath of old roses.

Figure in Permanent Field (Sarah Maclay)

Here's the other thing you didn't see that day, as I lay there in the stubble, in my long dress: in my other hand, I held a key. You left then, as the sky began to darken, it is true--but it was not yet evening. Finally, the thunder. The sky crackled white. The wind came up so strongly every leaf turned up its skirt--a tree of petticoats, a tree of white. And so I raised my hand. And in the distance, where the sky was smeared with gray, I saw an arc--something like a rainbow. Only white.

Night Ray (Paul Celan)

Most brightly of all burned the hair of my evening loved one:
to her I send the coffin of lightest wood.
Waves billow round it as round the bed of our dream in Rome;
it wears a white wig as I do and speaks hoarsely:
it talks as I do when I grant admittance to hearts.
It knows a French song about love, I sang it in autumn
when I stopped as a tourist in Lateland and wrote my letters to morning.

A fine boat is that coffin carved in the coppice of feelings.
I too drift in it downbloodstream, younger still than your eye.
Now you are young as a bird dropped dead in March snow,
now it comes to you, sings you its love song from France.
You are light: you will sleep through my spring till it's over.
I am lighter:
in front of strangers I sing.

Eroica (Rita Dove)

Beethoven at Castle Jezeri, Bohemia

A room is safe harbor. No treachery creaks the stair.
I've locked the door; I will not hear them knocking.
Anyone come calling can call themselves blue.

There was a time I liked nothing more than walking
the woods above Vienna, trampling forest paths
to find a patch of green laid square and plush.

I'd sit, tucked in a tapestry of birdsong, and wait
for my breath to settle; let the sun burnish my skin until
the winged horn of the post coach summoned me home.

And then everything began to sound like
the distant post horn's gleaming trail....

I was careless then, I squandered the world's utterance.
And when my muddy conspirator swayed and quaked
like the tallest poplar tossed by the lightest wind

so that I could hear his playing, see my score
transcribed on the air, on the breeze--I breathed
his soul through my own fingers and gave up

trying to listen; I watched him and felt
the music--it was better than listening,
it was the last pure sound...

(My emperor, emptied of honor,
has crowned himself with gold.)

Why did that savage say it? Why did I hear
what he said, why did I mind what I heard?
Good days, bad days, screech and whistle:

Sometimes I lay my head on the piano
to feel the wood breathing, the ivory sigh.
I know Lichnowski listens some evenings;

he climbs the four flights and hunkers on
the stoop. Odd: I can hear his wheezing
and not this page as it rips--the splitting

so faint a crackle, it could be the last
embers shifting in the grate....