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STRETCH / Albert Goldbarth Monarch wings can't be like butchers' hands, by any stretch of the imagination. —Lisel Mueller, in a review in Poetry Some afternoons, the bars of B-CeITs window grate the light—so give it form, the block of an almost cheesy solidity. Clouds at certain deeper moments of sunset are troughs of animal blood. But these are gratuitous fancies. He finds it necessary, far beyond the casual nature of daydream, to envision the poor sonsofbitches of C-CeIl out in the yard at their forced calisthenics as rows of palm trees, black-silhouetted, resilient, in great wind across a spit of white sand. That way, when B-CeIl's exercised in turn, he can think himself dancing in wind, for joy's sake only, just for the intimate loversbite of the sea air, somewhere on a beach the trees reach raggedly across like a try at penmanship in a hammock. So death is covered again by detail. Even so, that hammering plysheet coffins together, (each so cheap it's for three or more bulleted bodies), punctuates any penmanship, no matter how grand the text, with small black dots saying stop, saying stop forever, and nobody's able to sleep. There won't be clemency. Theirs is the King who himself knot-tied his first wife's opened bowel to an arm of the flour-mill, then slapped its donkey to work. And then was palaquin-carried back to the palace to lavender his hands. He toured the prisons once. The silver-sequin cloak and golden epaulettes let light make wings 8 · The Missouri Review about him. But it was near sunset, and red. Whatever the world's reporters said for their various countries' news, the prisoners saw these wings were butcher's hands, and had the unwashable meatgrain stain of butcher's hands, and only understood the rough declarations of aim and strength that power butcher's hands. Well that was weeks ago. Now it's only a matter of waiting, leaning on the window for a scrap of landscape's allowing the mind to fantasize new opulent distractions. Gods are some of these, and love. A blue-bruised man in prison might be one for somebody, might be just the fictive hurt it needs on a quiet day among the townhouse lawns to inspire an equally-fictive act of celebration, as a balance. Now he leans against his bamboo shutters—prison bars, he thinks, and begins to see, as from a stranger's eyes, some palm trees dance along a dazzled stretch of imagination. Albert Goldbarth The Missouri Review · 9 "HE IS CONVINCED THAT. Albert Goldbarth within a medium of cause and effect which he cannot name or quite visualize, the consequences of an act of honourable horsemanship must emanate outwards with tiny but endless effect." —John Berger There's a bridge in a small town in Idaho that actually looks like a smile. The stone is a smoothshelled off-white that catches the sun, it's done in rounded oblongs that recede in size, and curve, so that you're sure the architect had dentition in mind. I think of it, here in New York, years later, because this secretary behind a cool expanse of walnut desk is smiling in such a way it transports me. Certain looks from a woman will do this to me, lead me into an opening up of the day; the air and the room with its table of magazines and its mural of yacht masts steps into a version of itself unprecedented—as if everyone I know, or ever knew, were finely wired together and twined in a cord up this tearose in a milkglass budvase decorating one corner of her desk, as it first gives over to its fullest foliate shape. For her, the smile must be a kind of rind—it's shaped like a rind— remaining from kissing her man in the taxi before she stepped out, and winked, and then was gone in the erasing back-and-forth of a hand and a blackboard that two-way traffic makes. Even as she paid her share of the fare (he'd continue for 12 blocks...


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