Poetry: Issue #1

"Typhoon on Ha Long Bay," Margo Lemieux
*image: “Typhoon on Ha Long Bay,” Margo Lemieux

Featured poet

David Biespiel

 

Morning Prayers

 

Your God says look behind you, watch your back,

Become the life in your hands, walk like a shadow,

Lose the afternoon, knot the hour, seek the future,

Tie your tongue, wherever you are

chant the names of the streets,

The colors of the doors,

The dread writhing outside the window —

And all along the long, self-perpetuating,

Ordinary afternoons,

All along the imaginary, the woebegone.

Nothing can keep you from moving.

These clouds do not absorb repentances.

They drag under the sky.

Your God says this is desire wrestling itself from the branches

As the birds lord over the night,

As the old dogs yelp with the illusions,

As the cold nights turn ever-more cloistered,

And the night geometries of the crows do not abide.

Your God has not judged them as they subtract.

How long has it been since you yearned to be pierced

By the white sun? How long since it has risen?

Now it’s a warm wind. Half-sky. The clock thawing

The supernatural. You talking. Your God talking.

I could be the one who listens

measuring the little exhortations

In the smaller winds, in the noteless nothings.

I could be the one who listens to your robe at night

Softly sweeping against the floor,

you naked in front of me,

Your God naked behind you.

Like smoke. Like heartbreak.

Like the nipples touching the nipples,

Like the refusal of the world’s luscious squall.

Beautiful, beautiful life — of shattering brightness —

I can’t pencil it all in —

Not the irretrievable voices,

I mean, threading out and in.


 

The Midday Light Is An Oasis

 

The midday light is an oasis

Blurred against the spring,

A spirit of the houses burgeoning

 

As if unwatched, unwisely

Unwatched, and, suddenly,

The last puddles turn the birds

 

To little tiaras in the air —

They burst and glare

Against the haloed leaves.

 

All at once they furl back,

Unflame into a prank

Like jaunty-painted saints

 

Painted by a master

Keen to burn

What’s borne

 

Of absence that shimmers against the brink

Of a chirruping return of light

A preposterous thirst for light,

 

A slow proud shrill for light

Striking out for emptiness

That passes as the birds pass.


 

Clouds, I Said, Will Come Of It

 

Clouds, I said, will come of it,

Swelling, without wit,

As when the mind is with doubt,

And frozen drops quiver out

Onto the giving ground.

And what of birds that stand around

That come from pools and spring

Into the countenance of things?

There was a sudden fact: a dream,

An eerie flood of wings. I stopped

and blinked

And made a blessing with my hands

That rippled with the land

And twitching rocks and a blur

That, uncorrupted, cleared, then stirred,

And grass appeared, bird by bird.

I’m not sure I could believe

What I knew to be there.

The ground still cold, bare,

the clouds,

The morning washed, and fair.

 


 

Mayflower Compact

 

We wait more patiently than defenders of the faith

Nudging our duffs on and our ancient grudges

an inch or so

Toward king and country, toward thieves

And the last transformations

Liquified by equal laws,

Toward a century of rust and due submission.

Others took to the new land peacefully,

Weaned themselves on the new ports,

Buttered up and upset and obedient,

Gaining provincial death and fame

Like names of the underwritten —

say, Thomas English,

Who brought the muffins.

All of this may have existed with mistrust —

The days existed, the heart existed,

As if existence were condensed.

It was like some tireless

Form of the mouth or the moon, like the emptiness

Of the latest news.

And off on the horizon,

Somewhere, was windless light and the Anno Domini

Of denial, like Noah’s dream of the animals

And the rain and the dove

And the blowhard body politic

that clubs the obscure

Amens of men and women,

As well as the omens and enmities,

In the name of God,

While on the top decks

The immigrants play dice,

Divided by slices of silence,

While everywhere you can see

The sea groans with fog

And the great ships that wander the ocean.

 

David Biespiel is the author or editor of ten books, including recent books of poetry Charming Gardeners and The Book of Men and Women; Poems of the American South, published in the Everyman’s Library series; and the forthcoming collection of prose, A Long High Whistle: Reflections on Poetry

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