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Five Poems

The Severist Manifesto

We believe in erasing the page until it rises like a nappy fur and even the white space is a palimpsest of ghostly pencil lines. That “there will be time . . . for a hundred visions and revisions, before the taking of a toast” is cause for great rejoicing. This poet rolls, squeezes, and pummels the language until it’s putty in her hands—at which point it becomes totally unworkable, and she has to begin again. We Severists are obdurate. Believing that Death is an overblown Romantic notion, we refuse to die. Too stubborn to merge with the universe, we cherish figures of tenacious unalikeness, singing with the bard, “It did not give of bird or bush / Like nothing else in Tennessee.” [End Page 351]

The Corner Chair

for Jacques Tati

Through tangled bangs and lashes,Bad Boy looked around—

Behind the teacher’s back,in view of every one—

The perch on which he found himself,was perfect for class clown.

Umbrellas and galosheschoked the cloakroom door.

The students bent over their workbooks.The chalk lay down in its furrow.

The gathering minutes in spasmsjerked off on the hands of the clock.

Their shoulders shook with laughterbut the others made nary a sound.

Almost balletic, the wayold Baggypants spun around

Demanding to know who did it,spraying his spittle on those

Reciting by rote at tablestimes tables they wrote in rows. [End Page 352]

My Parrot presents A Grievance on Behalf of All Birds Everywhere to the Court of Your Judgment

“We haven’t any arms,”Malarkey squawks

“Like the Venus de Milowe’re all head and torso.

Feet but no hands—no way to stop the drape from sliding off,

No arms to reach out with,to fight back or implore—

When a pigeon wants her breakfastshe must hunt and peck it off the floor.”

But arms and all that’s meant by longingare locked inside a feathered breast

And though his beak is made for bitingMalarkey loves to kiss—oh yes—

French kiss with his dry little tongue.“Pity the one who can only look on—”

“While those who can embrace.”A tremor passes through his wings

From disuse atrophied almost—the very things which otherwise

Might compensate. [End Page 353]

Dear Disappearing Papa

You’ve been gone too long.We miss your bear hugsand your whiskey breath,

We want to be consumed in your warm coat.We want to sneak our hands into your pocketsand discover there,

Buried deep, little treats,sugar cubes and swizzle sticks,matchbooks from

That midnight place,where the music is hotand the solo is yours,

To peek insidethe velvet-lined black case,to find, nestled in the niche

Where La Bella strings are kept,the clunky, two-pronged fork              that keeps us true. [End Page 354]

To Love, a Golden Retriever

Beautiful muse, here you are again.How desirable you are,desirable beyond measure.

You make me want to lie on my backclutching the grass, clutching and kneadingthe gnarly roots, the nappy, rough

Carpet of earth, giving my body upcompletely to the sun. O let your rough tonguelick my eyelids open. I feel

Your warm nose snuffling and nuzzlingbetween my shoulder and ear.You are the one I loved without doubting.

It was enough just to be with you,smelly and friendly and near. [End Page 355]

Belle Randall

Belle Randall, poetry editor of Common Knowledge since its inception, has taught in several creative writing programs, including Stanford University’s. Her poem “A Child’s Garden of Gods” is included in the recently published anthology The Open Door: One Hundred Poems, One Hundred Years of “Poetry” Magazine. She is the author of The Coast Starlight, True Love, Drop Dead Beautiful, The Orpheus Sedan, and 101 Different Ways of Playing Solitaire. She is coeditor of Exploding Flowers: The Selected Poems of Luis Garcia.

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