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THE RABBIT

 

    after Chaim Soutine’s Rabbit

 

 

In Paris, beneath the lush rooms

of Waterlilies, 

the rabbit hangs by its feet,

eye dilated and white,

dead-eye, but whose brown

fur feathers to be touched

 

and then the copper jug

suspended beside its back,

orange bulb blooming,

full of wine, perhaps, 

or stale water.

 

Hunting trophy 

still life, remnant of moments—

of paw in dirt, view of grass,

sound vibrating in ears,

punctured flesh and torpid light

before the aperture closed.

 

One of a series of dead rabbits

and hares, done after fish and forks

and light-taut glass. A series of darkened

walls hung with luminous fur,

with jugs and a wisp, perhaps, of a flower.

 

It is the suspension of fear—

the mouth forever frozen open, 

the suggestion of ribs that enclose 

the stilled heart, one ear

dotted with the orange-red of the jug

 

to balance the composition,

to appease the eye’s need for symmetry,

to provide some resolution to the rabbit

hung, forever now, beyond death.

 

        published in The Ekphrastic Review, February, 2019

THE CALL

 

 

Reckless brother, 

you inhabit

blank, damp

winter

 

a beardless airy

beauty who moves

along my spine

 

but through what space

does your thought 

flicker, lost light

to my ear?

 published in The Flexible Persona,                                                Spring 2019

HUNT & RENEWAL

 

 

And Artemis shot her stark, silver bow

and struck the glowing thigh of heaven’s stag

and disease bloated cities – the men laid low –

and the moon a hungered disk, night’s bright rag

 

glowed against the linnets’ unquiet wings

glowed against cheeks, dampened chests, crusted eyes

glowed until the glow burned the sickly things

glowed to burn thin the fattened, drowsing flies

 

until children fluttered beneath broad elms

until smoke ribboned air with saffron scent

until flesh of violets filled the realm

until stars around worlds gently bent.

MILTON & GALILEO AT LUNCH

 

 

1.

 

One already blind,

their minds

meet.  Milton

envisions Galileo’s

optic glass,

hung like a shield

on the devil’s back,

and tells him so

knowing they all

share the mark

of heresy.  

At a table

in the villa 

of Arcetri

they split

a bottle of wine,

a plate of melon.

Florence rests

at the perimeter

of the astronomer’s

mind, city 

of marble,

inner fold 

of earth

between seas.

Euppur si muove 

he whispers again

as Milton reaches

to feel the cup

Galileo slowly spins

with his hand

Euppur si muove

in orbit upon

the wooden plane

around the sun, a brass 

candlestick without

wax or wick, 

their prison ordained

in darkness.

Jupiter’s moons,

the sun’s ragged spots,

the fruits of heaven

that blossomed 

in Galileo’s eyes

to excite his fall.

Can it be sin to know?

Can it be death? 

And do they only stand

by ignorance?

is what, Milton replies, 

I had Satan ask

and what I still

need to know

even as I grow old

with memories 

of secrets uncovered,

of knowledge once forbidden

broken open and lived through.

 

 

    2.

 

The universe born

into a constant state

of motion, a perfectly

polished block,

friction-free,

would move

through space 

forever, unlike Galileo’s 

fork whose slide

stops before

reaching Milton’s

hand.  Inertia,

Galileo refrains,

bodies at rest

or in motion

remaining 

in their particular 

state.  Milton imagines 

the astronomer’s face 

mirrored in a lake

eyes seeing

their own light

for the first time,

the first point

through which he finds

his relation

to sun,

shore of light

upon which to kneel.

And Eve, 

Milton recites, 

asked ‘If this be our

condition thus to dwell

in narrow circuit

straitened by a foe,

how are we happy

still in fear of harm?’

to which Galileo,

five years confined

to a guarded house, 

offers no reply.

 

 

 

    3.

 

But he speaks

of Maria Celeste, 

loyal and devout

daughter gone 

to her grave.

Proof, 

the only difference

between faith

and belief,

is what he sought

to bring them

even closer 

to God, to trace

a path back

up the inclined 

slope, law

of moving bodies

sent spinning

through space

by an omnipotent hand.

 

 

Note: “Euppur si muove” (And yet it moves) is what Galileo is rumored to have muttered after recanting his defense of the Copernican system during his trial by the Inquisition. 

FINALE

 

 

Without the moon to bring the tide to shore

without a rope to help the sailor moor

without the light to view his lover’s hips

without a tongue to taste his salty lips

 

the sea a swirling pool of startled cries

the sea of bloated blooms that sink to die

the sea of tethers, of chains, of hair, of glass

the sea through which the living all must pass

 

the God to whom the sailor needs to pray

the God whose molten sun retains its rays

the God of death, of love, of cryptic signs

the God whose measures beat out jagged lines

 

the sailor casts his shirt into the gale

the sailor ties his wrist upon the rail

the sailor’s swollen feet streaked white with brine

the sailor’s naked frame though darkness shines.

THIS

 

        

            1.

 

Where the terns stand stiffly

in the bright blue sand

and the strangeness of the sea

laps against hooves that pound

its softening shore, its castles of sand

 

what more can eyes withstand?

What more of the man

who scrapes salt from his skin,

scrapes down to bone,

scrapes to scrape away sin

 

sin that is gas, a song,

a loop of air, a stinging wish

that, rising, burns the throat

into a sooty channel.  A crumbling bridge.

 

 

 

        2.

 

Earth has opened—

pulled a body inside.

 

The sea sloshes.

Terns dive and slice

the foaming pit with wings.

 

A man’s head—a breath—

the head gone.  Again.

 

 

        3.

 

This span of water.

This wind.

These blown dunes.

The thousand limbs within.

This air.  This whisper.

This beating. This puzzle.  

This.

PERSISTENCE 

 

 

He called her genius.  She turned to snow

and drifted against his house.  To tuck away,

suckle the babe, irrational, in her arms

 

was what she thought, what she ate,

what she heard heroines must do.  Genius,

but her effort told her otherwise—

 

though she could feel the switch

on a bull’s back, and the last twitch

of a dying girl, she could draw no conclusions.

 

She wished for the slow descent of a seahorse,

or the timely arrival of a mad tale to her head—

Time, inordinate.  Peaceful.  His patio glittering with chairs.

                                                 published in Cutbank, Spring 1998

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