Painters’ Exhalations 471
—after Gustave Caillebotte ‘s Floor Scrapers
contained glory of the ensuing
corporeal construction. As with
much of human encounters, distance
of the future body travels
into open chests of preexamined
endeavors, creating existence of the blood-made
association with existential noumenon. Philosophy of
dedication carves into the hands’ many functions’
reactionary knack, watching the mirror of
myriad movements fog until blur is
causational exertion collapsing in
outcome of concentration’s teleology.
The Train Was a Carnival of Lost Souls
People leaned out the windows,
some tumbling out like acrobats
only to be gobbled up
by the shadows.
We started playing
flashlights and yelling
because everyone else was,
But we weren’t sure
whether they were
crying or laughing
and did both just to be safe.
Go. The door leads to a mass of tangled woods directly outside. Where? The air is heavy, brooding. Everything in the house says, Go. Everything outside says, Where? The open door stares us down. Make your move, it says. Everything is still. The lamp, stricken with purity, sneezes. Bless you, says the little clock on the mantelpiece. The doorbell, not wanting to feel left out, keenly chimes in, Bless us all!
There still remain for you and me,
Though all the world exploit us,
Two purest pleasures without fee:
The library and coitus.
(For Mangas Coloradas)
You know it doesn’t matter, really,
The President doesn’t control
the death rate, anyway.
Take genocide, for example.
Not so long ago
both political parties
disguised smallpox as truth,
then quarantined resident Americans
inside buffalo-skin tents stretched
across a warm, moist, Colorado night,
punctuated by insane bullfrogs.
The woman begins to feel
as if her world is caving in.
It’s hot outside. Dense.
Like she’s invading a piece of
No run today. A bit
tense, she thought she rid herself
of that insatiable runner’s
appetite clinging on like
a bad smell. She’s worried
a tumor grows beneath
a yellowing bruise on
(At least she hopes it’s
turning yellow. That means it’s healing.)
Yellowing. Like a rotting fruit’s
last big hurrah.
The colors remind her of a
flower, a lupine blooming on her hip,
the lump like a little bud
beneath, its inner child.
If she does have a tumor, when
it’s all said and done and her head
is as bald as a polished stone,
she’ll get a lupine tattooed right
there, underneath the scar so
she always remembers
what made her humble.
(But it’s probably nothing.)
She wishes it were raining. Wishes the
purple clouds would cover the pale
skin of the bright sky, the sun
a little bud beneath, asleep in
a winter-like storm. But it’s hot.
Dead hot. And the black flies
beat the air
with plastic wings,
invading the humidity
like a disease.
In High School Math Class
Studying sine and cosine
plotting the waves
between passing notes to friends
and mooning over that guy
whom I’d later marry and divorce
I was ignorantly plotting
the ups and downs of mood,
the geometry of jealousy
sin and co-sin.
Hate is a hard stone
in my skin-walled garden: hot
and sere, austere among the gravid
fruits of joy, bright annual angers,
perennial passions, evergreen loves.
Vines wind and die, leaves lace
into loam, blossoms give birth.
Sun’s warm grace embraces all,
and likewise rain’s good gift,
but stone turns dark.
Roots make accommodation, blind
permutation, shell-shaped ripples
weave like shock waves
around unyielding stone.
Even vegetative rot’s productive,
compost fuel for future fruit,
but stone gives naught.
Through summer’s heat and spoil,
through rain and drought
and snow, stone stays
hard. Hard to know, and to admit
that stone is ever part of soil.
The Sod House
The door stood open to the prairie,
The day stood open to the end of time.
The men who died the year that I was born
Lie dreaming in the sod.
From here to the coast
The disappointments of our lives
Lay lightly on the forest like a fog,
A bitter wine decanting in the sand.
The ocean at Ecola bended
Upward in the sky,
Where space itself lay broken,
Or at least our notions of it.
The door stood open to the prairie,
The roof lay open to the sky,
Free from history and from dreams,
No longer product, agency.
This house broke free of its stories
As we would break free of ours.
Two Visions of the Infinite in Seattle
I. Behind the Ivar’s
I stood above the wet percussion,
Above the weak applause of dying waves
On algae-covered pilings
Whose trunks sought seabed
In the spiky bloom of urchins.
I sank below the Sound and swayed
Like seaweed stroking broken figures
Down beside the fallen lighthouse.
But here no agate and quicksilver mix,
In this liquefaction of obsidian.
I skimmed across the cleft glass of waves,
The scrawl of neon and the harbor lights,
I brushed my lips against the distance
In the din of buoys and the low
Of the ferry’s horn deep in the sea’s throat.
You made me this ocean I drown in.
II. Under the Alaskan Way Viaduct
I saw God shine off the mercury in our blood,
The soft light of scattered figures
Lit the space beneath the viaduct.
I saw God shine off our blood
Like headlight beams light up
Reflective tape on traffic posts
Or green-gold foil in the eyes of deer.
I saw God light up our blood
Like brief but incandescent bursts
Of gamma rays from distant stars
Set the billowing clouds of galaxies ablaze.
I saw God shine off our blood like light.
Have you noticed how prolific the word ‘consultant’ is these days?
Scott side-saddles the table
at the front and
swings his leg:
“If you’ve got the logo
and the website down
then you’re away
and it applies to
all types of businesses.
“You can’t expect success
a good image these days.”
“How about a window-cleaner?”
asks a stout middle-aged chap
two rows from the back,
and one or two chuckle
“As I said”,
says Scott, a bit miffed, fingering
a plastic cup and pausing for effect,
and sniffed slightly,
though there was
nothing up his nose.
James H. Duncan
astral graveyard loneliness
robust twilight failures
sweep down like broken crows
when the moon ain’t nowhere near
the window or the sky
no midnight marker
to guide the worn and weary
back to bed
what light is left when your own fire dies?
when the days stand still like headstones?
when the nights go white with memories?
somewhere downstairs a telephone capitates
a bloom of hate against the sleepless mind;
everyone wants something, but nothing
that matters, nothing that will last beyond
a headstone or two, a few numbers
on a stone wall—that’s all
the blankets are old friends
worn thin with favors
the pillows browned by
nightmares, stained spittle-gray
unwanted by any other, I keep them
like horded fool’s gold
the curtains move from my awkward
turning, showing no moon skies
astral graveyard loneliness
I forgive the moon
we all need a break from the full
view of humanity from time to time
past, present, and yet to come
we throw darts like we’re aiming at god’s wristwatch
and this young kid comes up, asking to join us;
he looks okay enough, round features, round
head and a kind smile, maybe a little too kind
and I saw him watching us as I killed all challengers
eight, nine, ten games in a row, and I knew he was
a hustler, could tell by the way he watched my grouping
nodding at the good throws, rubbing his jaw at the
triple threes and double ones, but the nice kid
had the balls to ask, so we dropped in some quarters
and started up a round, and before I know what happened
he lost and lost again after that, and then left with a girl
who was quiet and sweet and better than any I’ve
picked up here in a long time (always some sharp-eyed
redhead or a sarcastic raven-eyed anemic) and then
it was just myself and my old friend, the long-haired
latin drunk, standing near god’s wristwatch as young
people who had places to go and knew people everywhere
came and went with jokes to tell and with so much hope
tucked away as a Noah’s flood of gray smoke saturated
our clothes, our lungs, and we drank until we couldn’t
feel our feet anymore, just standing there, refusing to play
at my friend’s request until he leaves, and then others come
and ask but I turn them all away as well: what’s the point?
nobody cares, and nobody will care when I lay in bed
with a sore arm and all those useless trophies in my head
little golden empty whiskey glasses in a row on the mantel
as blank checks burn below in the fireplace, casting little
dancing shadows that look surprisingly like the souls
of the young who flock to the bars hoping to impress
someone, anyone, maybe finally make it and save their lives
with nameless sex or a wife, a free round, or a game of darts,
but like every fire, when you close your eyes and take
in the warmth, you will wake up at 4 a.m. and see nothing
but simmering coals, and even they go away, leaving
a cold moon, reeking clothes, and a heart that wishes
it could just stop for a while, just for a while, and live
so we talked and talked
and everything came out
until you said
no more ‘later’ for either of us
and it felt like the time with the papercuts
when my friend squidged my finger to his saying
and guiltily i forced
a fake confession
a white crush
so that very quietly
all hell broke loose
and its pieces fell
invisibly full of what i really knew
for the first time ever
no matter what
but it did matter what
and there was a place for everything
everyone in their place
and it’s like trying not to eat chocolate
and ending up sneaking gum drops
until your insides turn to plastic
like wanting to be immersed in someone
wrapped around them
and making coffee
well it’s warm and wet
for a lost weekend
to a lifetime
depending on possibilities
i thought i should tell you
about this crush.
Ananya S. Guha
Garden Of Gethsamane
Withered is the gnarled
bark of the tree, standing
sullenly, with drooping head
and, by its side the
soft petalled rose, blooms
eternally, rising into
heaven of glowing embers.
The tree predates the garden
like a pontificating lion,
king of animals;
spreads wings of damnation.
I observe both tree and rose
and, the garden of Gethsamane.
If my heart stops
Leave it alone!
And she kept removing the oxygen mask
like it was the cob webs she had gathered
from a bad hip, from going blind
from being lonely
in federal housing
after an hour of this
she finally died
her minister visited
tried to console her daughter.
she is with your god and your father now
her daughter laughed
I think that
she would rather be left alone she said.
she knew he was just trying to be kind
but death has its own brand of kindness
the type that makes everything else seem ridiculous
and filled with sad comedy
she got up
Grabbed her walker
Then left the hospital
Kane X. Faucher
ellipses perforating speech
a bereft silence mandorla —
klarinette highs bellow
bladder punctured by unsound–
suspension rainbow bevels word
hung like a moon.
Byron cuts the ribbon
on the wide gulf of swirling phantasm.
A narrative cycle in Japanese panels.
I have delegated all of these things
to act as my short-term memory.
My brain has a doppelganger:
not convoluted gray Nerf, but
a flat, white array of messengers
indentured to declare the quotidian.
The tree that would have harbored nests
and shaded its neighbors was instead cut
into a thousand ridiculous slices and
somehow ended up here on my desk.
The tree that could have dropped acorns
for slender squirrels now commands me
to have my teeth examined, or
to look up the word predacious.
As I angle my head, volatile thoughts
run out of my ear in a stream of blue ink
and congeal on these arbor slices
over whose population I have no control.
Attempts to domesticate them
meet with furious breeding, and suddenly
there are more. One day you will read,
on page D-14, that a man was found
buried beneath a profusion
of little white squares. But for now,
I will keep the tree-slicers in business.
Nerf doesn’t take well to ink.