Wednesday, September 27, 2006


I was sitting in the office I use on campus, in the building known as LC--a room with no window but a skylight overhead, a desk with a phone and lamp but no computer, bookshelves but few books, and several chairs--reading over some Henri Cole poems for a discussion group later that evening, but really just killing time before a staff meeting for the course I'm teaching. I wrote the following on the reverse sides of four sheets of the Cole packet in these exact words and this sequence:

page one:

In the snow the boy
stands alone
with his pocket pistol.
There's a surprise behind every door.
Not for nothing can we
shift the scenery
once or twice until everyone's quiet.
The ice is everywhere
and then the rain.
It doesn't matter until it happens twice.

You told me you were everywhere
and I believed you
not the way you meant it though
only as a game
where you would be as much as me
wherever I looked.

I never sent flowers
though I knew
she was not well.
An omission
of affection? Perhaps.
But all the same
whenever she spoke of roses,
tulips, jonquils and the rest
I sensed her joy
that mine, unsent,
also were unwithered.

Never return
to where you were
for the only purpose
is getting out,
going forth,
the heart's salt
on other shores.

page two

I don't understand
the need for speech in each
tiny ear held open as if
to receive a sound
that would make of life
a series of winds
each with its own voice.

The man questions nothing.
He just is.
And in that space
to which all must come
he practices appearances.

Taught to register wonder
at each new shoot
the girl gazes wide-eyed
as the bud unfolds
its violent end, stretched
open, screaming
in bloom.

Beneath the sea
she speaks to me, lily
of the foam.
Her steeds race across
oceans, unfurl
pennants, abandon
magics long since
past perishing.

page three

Whenever we remember
the shallow city we once knew
it will be like a newly told
tale of deep retreat
where valiant avengers
withdrew their alarms
and surrendered to a time
unsanctified by blood.

So we will see, remembering,
how we stood apart
and mourned for them,
all the unfallen.

Taking the way
you would've come
(had you come)
you would've found
briars overgrown upon
an untended path,
would've seen roses
gripped in their teeth,
would've heard a sigh
of sleep that never dreamed
your abrupt intrusion.

Stay away, prince,
scourge of hapless faeries.

Your nemesis awakes you.

page four

Whenever we dream together
we share uncertain futures
masked by all those features
we never showed each other.


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