dahlialis

Art, nature, words.

Etta’s Elegy

for Etta Silver (1913–2013)

This is where the poem holds its breath,
where the usable truth sways, sorrowing,

and the people sway with the truth of it,
and this is where the poem enters the dark.

This is where the book closes and the clock
opens and the clock closes and the book

opens to song so the snow geese murmur
and the coyote swaggers along the aspens.

This is where the geese fly unabashedly out,
and the sky turns white and wild with sound.

This is where tumult, this is where prophecy.
This is where the poem repents of language.

This is where the poem enters silence,
where the child holds the book in her lap

whose pages are aflame with life, whose
song sways with a usable truth, sorrowing.

And this is where the poem holds its breath,
and this is where the poem enters the dark.

This is where it leaps wild about the child,
where the snow geese seize the seamless sky

and the universe splits open for one poem—
the way a life lived calls on us to praise it.

Maureen Seaton

Brokeheart: Just like that

When the bass drops on Bill Withers’
Better Off Dead, it’s like 7 a.m.
and I confess I’m looking
over my shoulder once or twice
just to make sure no one in Brooklyn
is peeking into my third-floor window
to see me in pajamas I haven’t washed
for three weeks before I slide
from sink to stove in one long groove
left foot first then back to the window side
with my chin up and both fists clenched
like two small sacks of stolen nickels
and I can almost hear the silver
hit the floor by the dozens
when I let loose and sway a little back
and just like that I’m a lizard grown
two new good legs on a breeze
-bent limb. I’m a grown-ass man
with a three-day wish and two days to live.
And just like that everyone knows
my heart’ broke and no one is home.
Just like that, I’m water.
Just like that, I’m the boat.
Just like that, I’m both things in the whole world
rocking. Sometimes sadness is just
what comes between the dancing. And bam!,
my mother’s dead and, bam!, my brother’s
children are laughing. Just like—ok, it’s true
I can’t pop up from my knees so quick these days
and no one ever said I could sing but
tell me my body ain’t good enough
for this. I’ll count the aches another time,
one in each ankle, the sharp spike in my back,
this mud-muscle throbbing in my going bones,
I’m missing the six biggest screws
to hold this blessed mess together. I’m wind-
rattled. The wood’s splitting. The hinges are
falling off. When the first bridge ends,
just like that, I’m a flung open door.

Patrick Rosal

The Summer of Reconciliation

1
They’re happy but don’t know it.
They think they’re bored and hate each other.

The other has forgotten the hammer and must pound
each triangular tent peg with a damp stone
that has a smooth underside but no flat plane,
and here the earth is granite or friable lichen.

The whoosh could be a horsefly, rain, or a powerboat.

They make love, and each gasps politely, each feels
that fat cloud is me, that drilled acorn was me,
but this person holding me is strange,
withholding as time itself.

2
At sunset the island lights up:
a firefly, a Coleman lamp, a bed of coals.

It’s there they will learn to be travellers,
there where the flies know they are loud,
the hidden spring is aware of being cold.

They will get there by the teak row-boat,
worn almost to a thought, the gunwale splaying,
the strake shipping bilge and drowned lunar moths,
the old dog in the prow, watching through cataracts.

Beach with me on mica, in the tannin-dark inlet.

3
No, there is nothing here, a wisp of tarred rope,
a smashed teal egg, paths that lead to each other,
so you might walk to Quarry Cove and find only quartz.

But here the night makes its own darkness.

Like lake water, or the spine of a moss-green book,
our marriage closes over us.

D. Nurkse

The World Seems…

The world seems so palpable
And dense: people and things
And the landscapes
They inhabit or move through.

Words, on the other hand,
Are so abstract—they’re
Made of empty air
Or black scratches on a page
That urge us to utter
Certain sounds.
                           And us:
Poised in the middle, aware
Of the objects out there
Waiting patiently to be named,
As if the right words
Could save them.
                               And don’t
They deserve it?     
So much hidden inside each one,
Such a longing
To become the beloved.

And inside us: the sounds
That could extend that blessing—
How they crowd our mouths,
How they press up against
Our lips, which are such
A narrow exit for a joy so desperate.

Gregory Orr

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