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Monday, January 17, 2011

A Quick Note on the Three Poems Immediately Below

"Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form", "I Saw a Peacock With a Fiery Tail" and "April Fools" are all what I call "wrap-around" poems, in that portions of each line or most lines work twice: both with the phrase immediately preceding and the phrase immediately following. They may seem nonsensical until they are read with this in mind...

Pity the Bathtub Its Forced Embrace of the Human Form (Matthea Harvey)

Pity the bathtub that belongs to the queen its feet
Are bronze casts of the former queen's feet its sheen
A sign of fretting is that an inferior stone shows through
Where the marble is worn away with industrious
Polishing the tub does not take long it is tiny some say
Because the queen does not want room for splashing
The maid thinks otherwise she knows the king
Does not grip the queen nightly in his arms there are
Others the queen does not have lovers she obeys
Her mother once told her your ancestry is your only
Support then is what she gets in the bathtub she floats
Never holds her nose and goes under not because
She might sink but because she knows to keep her ears
Above water she smiles at the circle of courtiers below
Her feet are kicking against walls which cannot give
Satisfaction at best is to manage to stay clean

Pity the bathtub its forced embrace of the whims of
One man loves but is not loved in return by the object
Of his affection there is little to tell of his profession
There is more for it is because he works with glass
That he thinks things are clear (he loves) and adjustable
(she does not love) he knows how to take something
Small and hard and hot and make room for
His breath quickens at night as he dreams of her he wants
To create a present unlike any other and because he cannot
Hold her he designs something that can a bathtub of
Glass shimmers red when it is hot he pours it into the mold
In a rush of passion only as it begins to cool does it reflect
His foolishness enrages him he throws off his clothes meaning
To jump in and lie there but it is still too hot and his feet propel
Him forward he runs from one end to the other then falls
To the floor blisters begin to swell on his soft feet he watches
His pain harden into a pretty pattern on the bottom of the bath

Pity the bathtub its forced embrace of the human
Form may define external appearance but there is room
For improvement within try a soapdish that allows for
Slippage is inevitable as is difference in the size of
The subject may hoard his or her bubbles at different
End of the bathtub may grasp the sponge tightly or
Loosely it may be assumed that eventually everyone gets in
The bath has a place in our lives and our place is
Within it we have control of how much hot how much cold
What to pour in how long we want to stay when to
Return is inevitable because we need something
To define ourselves against even if we know that
Whenever we want we can pull the plug and get out
Which is not the case with our own tighter confinement
Inside the body oh pity the bathtub but pity us too

I Saw a Peacock With a Fiery Tail (Anonymous)

I saw a peacock with a fiery tail
I saw a blazing comet drop down hail
I saw a cloud with ivy circled round
I saw a sturdy oak creep on the ground
I saw a pismire swallow up the whale
I saw a raging sea brim full of ale
I saw a Venice glass sixteen foot deep
I saw a well full of men’s tears that weep
I saw their eyes all in a flame of fire
I saw a house as big as the moon and higher
I saw the sun even in the midst of night
I saw the man that saw this wondrous sight.

April Fools (Tessa Rumsey)

Inside the pale niagara for her cruel betrayal: a paper boat, not.

Afloat; but not sinking into azure ether either--sailing,

The way a lost faith sails, limp and broken, but somewhere.

Still believing, it may be, you said to me, that we are not.

Yet built sufficiently enlightened to to the thing we must.

Forgive her. Late winter: frozen cherries / atop a new parable.

Of my wicked stepmother. We are cherry blossoms caught.

Inside the static loop of loss. It's spring again--She leaves us.

You say the word again, forgiveness, holding your split heart.

In your hands, a frozen boat. Paper blossom. Olive branch.

Oysters (Seamus Heaney)

Our shells clacked on the plates.
My tongue was a filling estuary,
My palate hung with starlight:
As I tasted the salty Pleiades
Orion dipped his foot into the water.

Alive and violated
They lay on their beds of ice:
Bivalves: the split bulb
And philandering sigh of ocean.
Millions of them ripped and shucked and scattered.

We had driven to that coast
Through flowers and limestone
And there we were, toasting friendship,
Laying down a perfect memory
In the cool of thatch and crockery.

Over the Alps, packed deep in hay and snow,
The Romans hauled their oysters south to Rome:
I saw damp panniers disgorge
The frond-lipped, brine-stung
Glut of privilege

And was angry that my trust could not repose
In the clear light, like poetry or freedom
Leaning in from sea. I ate the day
Deliberately, that its tang,
Might quicken me all into verb, pure verb.

Scratch Harvest (Catherine Barnett)

This spring hail hit the apples
and the tiny marks became divots.

Into the stew pot more apples,
still in their skin and pocked.

Smooth black seeds
keep rising to the surface.

Outside, the trees are oblivious
to the disorder of their bodies,

the divots in their offspring
bear them no shame.

It's all the same to them,
same sweet flesh,

same irregular songs sung
by the mockingbird as by the wind,

and all beautiful, the same song
sung by footsteps

as by shears radiant against
the black branches.

This Is What I See (Karla Kelsey)

This is what I see through false eyes and a hole in the siding. A gape and then flooding. A gape in the ribs and then flooding called breath. Then the red curtain and phrase of one and one. As if painted, the sky approaching sunset, duration of fire. Smoke fills our lungs as we mount, two by two along the wooden railing. Placed, we receive bouquets of patience. The strum of. And guitar,

garden dry wall crumbled and branches a-fade, fading. The call outlined with an arc of birds in the sky. Circling. Felt in my hair, a moment, then hands put to. Well of the eyes. We stoop and they sweep the tin siding, the roofing patented green. For the lost. This is the way that it has to be. As in her eyes on the edges of her lower lids. For the sight lines and valley over brilliant blue battering. A falling. Flag foment and the pages crease. And, creasing, share over the marble and granite sun. Over forms accidentally there.

The moment clouds enter the building, in the outline of our shadows. Don't ask how this occurs, akin to roses, browning along the edges. Trees, the necessary distance from flames. We write them off shore, securing the mind's eye. As in his aviary birds of knowledge fly captive, saved from asphyxiation. A way of leaving the field of snow and fire while flying forward without a chance for adjustment, nothing caught in the clearing

Cormorants (Mary Oliver)

All afternoon the sea was a muddle of birds,
black and spiky,
long-necked, slippery.

Down they went
into the waters for the poor
blunt-headed silver
they live on, for a little while.

God, how did it ever come to you to
invent Time?

I dream at night
of the birds, of the beautiful, dark seas
they push through.

Rivers, Leaves (Susanna Lang)

The leaves rust on their branches.
The road is a bridge, is a road again.
I did not see the sign--the Des Plaines,
the Illinois, or the Chicago, North Branch--
intent on staying in the lines, on moving
forward. The news last night was bad.
The lump is not benign, it does not
wish her well. It does not wish. But we,
in our rushing, our rivering, our intent,

we wish: for these leaves to be washed
of their rust, for all to be well, again.