Poetry Sampler

                                                                                              Moon Turned Her Half Face From Me

 

Half the night was gone. On the tennis court only the whisper of a ball remained. I led her by the hand, which she had given me or allowed me to take. There may have been a river here once. Not likely, given the absence of rain. There had been soldiers. They had a different name for it then. The red brick building had been a private home before it became a hospital for the shell-shocked and then, later, the generally mentally unbalanced. The name was meant to inspire a feeling of peace, repose. As were the Celtic harps that inscribed the gates. To harp is to not let go. She had lost a twin sister in the forest. There was a name for that, too. She had a way of holding her mouth, an inward smile. The body has ways of forgetting. The whisperings of the men who had been in the trenches bled from the walls at night. In the hospital kitchen, they made sandwiches of circles of pink polony on white bread. Cut in half the bread formed two triangles and the polony two half-circles. They had the metallic taste of electroshock. After school, the first thing I did when I got home was open the fridge, looking for sliced meat—aufschnitt—which my mother bought from the German delicatessen. On Saturday the German man in the apron leaned over the glass counter and gave me a slice of rolled polony. After he put the poster in the window celebrating Hitler’s birthday, we didn’t go any more. When you flick a light switch off, what happens to the electricity? We arrived at the gate by means of wheels. Axle and steering. The gates were, as much as anything, symbolic, since you could leave at any point but, if you left without permission, they might not let you back in and then where would you go? Meaning is misplaced. The doctors, distinguishable by their calf-length white coats, had a way of walking that let you know they were going somewhere. Shells, whistling through the air, caused the soldiers to walk hunched over in the trenches, which had turned into rivers of mud. Some, who survived the bombs, drowned in the muck. When a twin dies or disappears her sister becomes an amputee. From the medication, her face had turned into a moon. Chiaroscuro. Two people in different places still see the same moon. With the crack of dawn, the bullets started. Unable to stretch, souls crouch. The name for this is traumatropism. There are different means to straighten someone out. Electricity is only one. Physical activity as a cure for the mind. Mens sana in corpore sano. In the afternoons, under the stelazine blue sky and the watchful eye of the OT, we ran-stumbled around the track next to the tennis court. That night, she let go of my hand, stooped to pick up an errant ball, pale yellow in the moonlight, against the green of the freshly slaughtered lawn. Half the night remained unopened.

               The Wounds of Narcissus

 

Leaning into the mirror,

he knows there is no one

quite like him

                           self

 

plucks at the memory

of his wife, still sheathed

in morning’s sheets,

as she slips from him

like yesterday’s razor

 

finds himself praying

for a sturdy metaphor

to take shelter in, something

to keep the rain from dimpling

his reflection, something

to slow the slippage

of his graying underwear,

through which his balls escape,

hang loose.

 

Rage is an option or, at least

an echo. 

 

He would like to trade in weariness

for a taste of grace…

 

This is the sixth day; he knows

this by counting his ribs,

by the red plash in the white toilet bowl

that swirls like Charybdis,

or a double helix

 before disappearing.

 

Tomorrow he will unbraid a yellow flower

from the grave of the earth, shake loose

the balled clods of dirt, catch

the fine scent of decay

 

will cup the yellowing face

in his hands, pluck a tell-tale hair

from his nose, try to recall

the conversation he had with Peter

on the way home from school

when he started to live in the third person

 

will try to remember not to sit

with his hands down his pants

when they have company over, will

make an appointment to have

the mole on his neck

                              removed.

 

 He would like to look into the depths,

hold the gaze of the sun in his eyes

till darkness arrives.

 

For now, he stares back at himself,

having removed the clock from the wall,

the tick-tock of it all, waiting

for his next breath, watching

his reflection float away, an untethered lily

 

the shadow of the moon moving

across the face of the earth.

Quills Canadian Poetry Magazine, Spring 2004