( Austin, Texas )
So that we say the earth has trembled, see
ecumenical, free-tongued, a different light on things?
We are shaken out and given air and light,
and all at once, almost too much, at the flashpoint
the light in our bodies rings audibly,
burns in colored splinters in the cell’s core.
When we make love with eyes open it’s to see
bliss swamp the lover’s face, to feel
this heat has made a lasting difference
that won’t be gotten over like being out of breath
or losing sleep. So, in the dismay of chaos whose forms are
dimensionless, and yet forms still, like darkness,
like webs of glass whose lead and stone
grow light in light, the arch has made the building
possible, supporting by means of opposition
that likeness, and this: outside,
the buttresses are earthbound, homely.
Inside we say hold fast and leave
no stone unturned, to learn
the mystery of redemption, we
will go the distance, moving
heaven and earth.
Your hands are cold, you say, and I agree.
The beginning is ice. There never was much
to say about love when it was good
except that and that it grew as frost
grows in the semi-symmetry
of the splashed heart, tower by tower
organizing its tenement.
We were meticulous that day
picking our way across the frozen pond
listening for danger, knowing
heat held under the thinning rind
and simple friction, our shoes stuttering
could shake it loose. But it was winter
Your hand is nearly frozen on the knob
you say. In fact I feel that ague spreading
white and definite as alder branches in late February,
Some call it melodious, ice
on ice: Xenakis, Coleridge. The notes
hardly spaced, painful
We know the creak behind each note
is definite and brief. Not the sound a torch makes,
thrust in snow.
( Apple Valley, Minnesota )
St. Paul’s Cathedral
Featured in its windows,
proudly put on display
gilded beyond the small abilities of patron Saint Gobain's,
my pain and distress are caught right there in annealing art.
Those are my colors, my tinctures, my brittle
cristallo strength and darksome glaze.
My overflowing Lycurgus cup
sustains a lead limned quarte—
because they have intact facsimiles
of my broken stained-glass heart!
( Carrboro, North Carolina )
Kimberly Townsend PalmerDouble Layers
older women need light,
light from windows
light in rooms
light warming their faces
on layered pewter days
when they search the sky
remembering rain and wind,
previous storms that flattened
Iris beds, splintered limbs
from oak trees, littering their
lives with debris
older women need time,
time to read Proust
time to sort photos
time to gaze at moths
waltzing in midnight ecstasy
under floodlights on charcoal nights
when their thoughts,
like water spattering stone,
quiver in the clutter of unrequited passions
older women need fire,
fire from burning tongues
fire from urgent memories
fire surging into their stretched skins
when they step from back porch stairs
onto leaves like wet sponges,
twisted branches with jagged teeth
that scrape their shins,
to survey storm damage,
seek the pieces of their lives
( Gainesville, Florida )
R.A. SkeensChin Pu (Mimetic Consumption)
The duck on her rock performs a slow dance,
stretching leg and wing she could be flying
but her eyes are steady upon mine. If I eat
her will I possess her grace? If I dry her bones,
pound them to powder will I ever be able to fly?
China being the oldest civilization, wouldn't you think
there is truth in this idea? Snake blood is the cheapest
aphrodisiac—the glossy firmness of the snake around
my arm makes me remember every time I've been
touched. Panicked by my lust, the snake twists
and defecates, a runny yellow soup emerging
from a shocking red anus which for a moment
seems like blood. Yet the snake's eyes never
flinch from mine. If I roast this body on a wood fire,
will I too be able to penetrate the entire world
with my stare? Emotions come from an older place
than thoughts—the duck, the snake and I share
more than breath, more than mere life. We feel,
therefore we are. It's not so easy with people.
Even if it weren't forbidden, could I process
your body for consumption? Could I use all your parts,
not waste a drop? Aren't we all waiting to be eaten?
Somewhere, those I love would season me with care,
value my flesh for the qualities they've learned to see—
not grace, not smooth strength, but constant
restless longing, the mind completely open,
forever curious. Don't hesitate—swallow me whole.
( Bristol, Virginia )
There are other words,
Syllables I have ciphered,
With eyes, ears, hands, feet.
The crunch of leaves
When they glove themselves
In frost. Water’s slap,
As wind shuffles it,
Like a blue deck of cards.
The crow’s angry croak
When he pecks only himself
In a puddle’s slab of mirror.
A shotgun’s kick, and the rabbit’s
Bloody pelt, as I stroke his back,
Hook his foot to my belt.
It’s in my heart
To mouth these words for you,
Force my lips around this language,
As a king snake measures prey
With his gut, but the task
Coils itself like a garden hose
In the grass. No,
Reason tells me,
Cave this knowledge,
Let my tongue be a hermit,
As if I could speak for nature,
And you would listen.
( Boston, Massachusetts )
For a Man I Once Dated
But Didn't Really Like, So We Broke Up
And I Followed Him To New Jersey
( Los Angeles, California )
Her voice cracks empty
an emotion that cannot
all feelings removed.
I want to do more
than scratch the surface
instead, I draw blood
with each kiss.
Where her eyes once were
a computer monitor
She politely asks
me if I am going
to finish the cookie
on my plate.
I do not know if
she wants it for herself
or if she is afraid
of it turning into crumbs.
I dispense with
the usual vigilance
leaving my heart
to the sins of my hand.
I am still concerned
with the bitterness
assigned to devour
( Brooklyn, New York )
Hard Wired Memories
Shakespeare and a few others left their names as legacies.
Their existence is fixed on some matrix of memory,
parchment, paper, or silicon chips.
Memories aren't really etched in the brain.
They're electric currents flowing along synapses.
But, in time, nerve cells drop their connections
like tired, old men drooping their arms over deathbeds.
The memory of a single life lives on for a while in other brains,
but again there will be the sputtering, disconnecting, darkening
and finally forgetting.
It's the way of all flesh, but not of bone.
Bone is the bard of its era;
stable isotope ratios are its lasting rhymes.
The ratios of 16O to 18O, of 12C to 13C are testimonies
of cyclones and calm, of cold and warmth,
for the synopsis of an age is written in a tooth
and the climate of our world is recorded in our marrow.
One day artifacts of my existence will be sold at a flea market.
My posterity will not be in my literary pretensions,
but in a baby tooth my mother saved
in a green metal box, which I now bury
with all the solemnity of a funeral.
Eons from now, it might be the last hard evidence left
of the winds blowing in our time
or be lost among the surplus skeletons of our age.
I - Driving With Strangers
II - Water Bird Practicing On Concrete
IV - Weary With Desire
Featured Poet - Virgil Suárez
Summer 2001 Issue