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Prairie Schooner 80.2 (2006) 130-134

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Petronius, and: The City is Wax Combs, and: The Kiss, and: Brightwork / Ave



And it is found in every place and at any time and in every circumstance, when the search lies heavy on the searcher
– Petronius

Had I been startled?
The rucksack held a cream-colored square of silk
   no solution. Bastard cold!
I screamed.

The day of discovery:
I thought of Russian steppes
the river overflowing.

The wind ripped the piece of paper from my hand
   like flame.

Had the adventure overtaken me?
A great talent ruined?

No gunpowder    heart racing from dashing up two flights to
   the scaffold    heart tighter, tighter:
Lost balance    stumbled over my own foot.

I pulled out a brass compass from WWI with mother-of-pearl
   compass, linked with truth    also symbol of duality
      & its transcendence: one hand remained fixed in center:
         the other makes a complete circle. [End Page 130]

Revolving round me you stared.
      Revolving around you I lowered
      my eyes.
It had been a long & difficult journey:    Abelard & Eloise
   Aucussin & Nicolette.


My own came home    two busses missed & gone to the wrong
   place to renew her driver's license;
Not only the wicket    but also the old rose    brick turn-of-
   century building had moved:
Capitol Iron to Wharf Street.

The cavil over possible rat-teeth marks in the bread wrapper
   has died down
Like flames
at night
over London.

I visit a laboratory in Switzerland    in my first dream:
   glass blue light from the Alps flooding it.
I visit a casualty ward the second dream    my head spins an
   unidentified man from England.

I almost make sense    but that slight dislocation    takes all
   five senses and throws them aslant.

I have unloaded my belongings    in the third dream:
Alone for the second fantasia.    One can live with secrets
   wrapped around like skins of an onion:
How far can I peel? How far is too far?
Would I lose my core in a heap of cast-off husks? [End Page 131]


Plato describes original human beings as round:    the poet
   with armful of leaves is holding a circle.
But I know better than give a cigarette away.
      I turn up my collar    walk the other way
         smoking    the little red fellow for companion.

The City is Wax Combs

Glowing    one lung    two lungs:
with our hiving

Taking the imprint of our living.    The North is lonely.
Silk & Bees:    buzzing industry.

The greater blue heron, Oriental crumpled feathers, stands on
   one leg smoky gray:
Balancing the weight of world & evening.

The beggar rolls on a board with casters: he has no legs.
   Castration caused infection
& his legs had to be amputated.    See!

Finally the night will bear the letter with sealing wax which
   takes the missive to you
from me. [End Page 132]

The Kiss

Hooded eyes said, "Kiss."    But the mouth was dumb.
Winter star barley spilled from a burn.
Your shoulder had been cut open, dressed.
was closed as a bordertown when a war is on.

Amid shimmering root-garden
who could believe
loss would plumb even greater depths?

An anchor in water
to weigh down.
The lowest hours came: sheep grazing on salt-pastures in
   evening: the starved hours – & you fed them.

Brightwork/ Ave

I give you this:    Brightwork:
the birds' breasts embroidered with
dew like dye.

The tapestry finch & the real, teal one
too – singing
during the gravedigger's shift.

Pearled rain
on the rim of the night watchman's
hat. [End Page 133]

Give fields
like drawings for an illustrated botany from the last century:
   tracing paper windows protecting them.

I give the War Plants    where guns were manufactured &
Give frozen
these plants from the air, like dead flowers on the ground.

Maria Purissima.
I sang all the way to Flatbush – & back into Manhattan.

Wheeling in circles
out front
frosted breath, breaking an orange open with bare hands.

Yule was round the bend:
Phantom-jets thundered above cloudline.

I have proffered you this:    Words.


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pp. 130-134
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