Jeanne Marie Beaumont

Dave Brinks
The Infinite Disorder of Prayers

Tiffany Fung
At the Cloisters

Dana Gioia
Elegy with Surrealist Proverbs as Refrain
Corner Table
The Voyeur

Maureen Holm
Tell Me

Nicholas Johnson

Rafiq Kathwari
What Happened to a World

Tim Scannell
Passages for the Heart

Tracy K. Smith
A Brief Touristic Account

Edwin Torres
This is the Glass Unlit by a Dolphin to My Side

William Wadsworth
The Snake in the Garden Considers Daphne

David Yezzi
Woman Holding a Fox

Contributors' Notes

~ . ~ . ~

Jeanne Marie Beaumont

Surely paradise has
a table by a window

that looks out
on a garden

dark apple
in the compote

a dog
happy in shadow

happy in red and gold
mosaic of air

not the way we see

but the way we
know them to be there.


~ . ~

Dave Brinks
The Infinite Disorder of Prayers

under high superstitious ceilings
sleep is a frightful rock
a dungeon of paradise
where I find my old self
waiting for me
the head floats by the ankles
I feel the bare room
trembling yellow in its labors
busted souls traveling
through the world at this hour
get recycled
and a little less desperate
like the difference between god
and bad information
I wish everything slender of flower
I wish gray light turning green
on dazzling snows

(From The Snow Poems (Lavender Ink, 2000).)


~ . ~

Tiffany Fung
At the Cloisters

The stones shine black, soiled by passing hands
While Mary clasps her exhausted son.

The archways from Cluny beckon
Like the empty oaken chairs circling the font.

Even the unicorn looks distracted
By a stem of dried lavender. A guard points

The way to shaded gardens where a single
Pomegranate dangles

Amid thistles and English ivy.
The crocuses are stealing glances

From under the pear tree, and out of the corner
Of my eye something begins to crawl

Tediously down the limb of a 'poisonous'
Plant-like crumbling stone or a tear

Darkening the granite skin,
Only to be caught in an outstretched palm

Pierced and missing two fingers, broken
Off by the weight of so many spiders.


~ . ~

Dana Gioia
Elegy with Surrealist Proverbs as Refrain

"Poetry must lead somewhere," declared Breton.
He carried a rose inside his coat each day
to give a beautiful stranger--"Better to die of love
than love without regret." And those who loved him
soon learned regret. "The simplest surreal act
is running through the street with a revolver
firing at random." Old and famous, he seemed démodé.
There is always a skeleton on the buffet.

Wounded Apollinaire wore a small steel plate
inserted in his skull. "I so loved art," he smiled,
"I joined the artillery." His friends were asked to wait
while his widow laid a crucifix across his chest.
Picasso hated death. The funeral left him so distressed
he painted a self-portrait. "It's always other people,"
remarked Duchamp, "who do the dying."
I came. I sat down. I went away.

Dali dreamed of Hitler as a white-skinned girl--
impossibly pale, luminous and lifeless as the moon.
Wealthy Roussel taught his poodle to smoke a pipe.
"When I write, I am surrounded by radiance.
My glory is like a great bomb waiting to explode."
When his valet refused to slash his wrists,
the bankrupt writer took an overdose of pills.
There is always a skeleton on the buffet.

Breton considered suicide the truest art,
though life seemed hardly worth the trouble to discard.
The German colonels strolled the Île de la Cité--
some to the Louvre, some to the Place Pigalle.
"The loneliness of poets has been erased," cried Éluard,
in praise of Stalin. "Burn all the books," said dying Hugo Ball.
There is always a skeleton on the buffet.
I came. I sat down. I went away.


Corner Table

You tell me you are going to marry him.
You knew almost at once he was the one.
Your hands rest on the quilted tablecloth.
"Such clever hands," I used to say.
I gave them names I never spoke aloud.

You tell me how you met and where you'll live.
It's easier to watch your lips than listen.
Your eyes flash in the candlelight like knives.
The waiters drift by with their phantom meals.
Tonight the dead are dining with the dead.

You twist the wineglass slowly in your hand,
And I speak of other things. What matters most
Most often can't be said. Better to trust
The forms that hold our grief. We understand
This last mute touch that lingers is farewell.


The Voyeur

. . . and watching her undress across the room,
oblivious of him, watching as her slip
falls soundlessly and disappears in shadow,
and the dim lamplight makes her curving frame
seem momentarily both luminous
and insubstantial--like the shadow of a cloud
drifting across a hillside far away.

Watching her turn away, this slender ghost,
this silhouette of mystery, his wife,
walk naked to the bath, the room around her
so long familiar that it is, like him,
invisible to her, he sees himself
suspended in the branches by the window,
entering this strange bedroom with his eyes.

Seen from the darkness, even the walls glow--
a golden woman lights the amber air.
He looks and aches not only for her touch
but for the secret that her presence brings.
She is the moonlight, sovereign and detached.
He is a shadow flattened on the pavement,
the one whom locks and windows keep away.

But what he watches here is his own life.
He is the missing man, the loyal husband,
sitting in the room he craves to enter,
surrounded by the flesh and furniture of home.
He notices a cat curled on the bed.
He hears a woman singing in the shower.
The branches shake their dry leaves like alarms.

(From Interrogations at Noon (Graywolf Press, 2001).)
[Reviewed in this issue. Also, selected texts from Gioia's
libretto, Nosferatu, appear in this month's Other Arts. Ed.]


~ . ~

Maureen Holm
Tell Me

And you say...,
'Tell me-e-e...,
tell me what you feel...'
-- Oh-ho God! Aah-heh!
Purple black blue green
sky hurtle hurtlesky purple black purp-
hurtlespace blue green white -- Heh!
hyper hyper hyperspeed hyperspace
spaceneedles speedneedles flashneedles crashneedles
headlights tail lights spacelights SCRE-E-ECH!
galactic traffic speeding jam speeding headlong weightless
am past beyond and through and through
where my being wa-a-s
hyperbeing hyperspeed
wheeling through the breath where your chest breathing wa-hah
hyperspace between between
purple black blue green
where my knees being were am I
plunging flung spinning spun
riding upside rightside downside eyes eyes
driving diving on my eyes
deaf deaf comet eyes
deaf streaming deaf screaming dum-m-b
purple black blue green
laser beam laser fingers laser thum-m-b
speedneedles needneedles
hot light cold light spotlight come
hot not hot cold hot not not cold
don't hurt me don't hurt me
I love you I love you --
no no
how could you know how could you KNOW?

lips full mouth woman
smooth curve smile pink
skyhurtle skyneedle Que-e-en QUE-E-EN
whimper need wheedle plead
yes trust him yes trust him
no NO
not when not when
just a thumb-
and I'm power-
just a
press thumb yes yes
just a
no please
you where
who deep
where I weep?
am I - Oh! - weeping now?
wet white blind needleblind needlebright
skyhurtle skylips why lips true?
pink inner pink inner
skyhurtle purpleblue
she knew she knew
trust you trust you
no no-o-o

weight yours
shoulder yours
thigh yours
breath yours
mouth yours
bring me back, bring me back, bring ME back
make me solid
pin me pin me pin me down
give me back my body
give my back my will
hold me DOWN!
me hold me-e-e
now you know now you -- OH!
black his boots she said
black his boots she would
for this
me too
anything for you
for this
you knew
play novel book movie
don't remember
damage that they DO
don't touch me don't touch me
let me go go
don't go don't go
don't ever ever touch me ever GO
Je-sus! you KNOW
she OH!
And you say, 'Tell me-e-e...'


~ . ~

Nicholas Johnson

in this spare forest windy accents are longing
to enter the mouths of the silent actors
to make more of this than a wooded matinee.
With these trees standing at moral attention
you can ask questions: Are these really The Wonder Years?
Or to vary a them: Is the world a tenable place
to live, getting deeper into that deep
unimaginative feeling of being? Ah! If only I were me!
Bacchanalia and anchors dropped beside amorous tents.
Just to forget the lame, the dumb, the poor, the breeding
et cetera, I take to the birches where I'm dumb-
founded by good fortune. The tourniquet
I put on that tree actually marks the point of no return.
I've really listened to those sentinels: Whatever you do,
they tell me, don't walk in a straight line
or you'll walk right out of the woods
. Here for a time,
and for you, there's a nice-and-easy, a Friday
when leaves are coming and going to color on the floor
of the forest. Where they'll come back to color.
Here, where every path leads you, there's
a gold key by your feet that opens a golden door.



~ . ~

Rafiq Kathwari
What Happened to a World

My mother cross-legged
the verandah rug
scent of mustard oil
her glistening hair
fat cook on his bike
midday tiffin for Father

I open my jaw to Maa
purse my lips to moo
fleece white as snow on K2
bathe with Maamoo my lamb
in an oval tin tub
under the grand oak

the wind fervent
cook roping Maamoo's legs
Mother pulling at her hair
pleading with Father
the knife at Maamoo's throat

"In the name of God"
Father's Bismillah
Blood crescent soaking grass
Mamoo's head at my feet
eyes reflecting light
dead stars


~ . ~

Tim Scannell
Passages for the Heart

When you are on a side of your
Ring of stone
And turn,
You will be at the heart
To notice I’ve moved nothing in the darkness
And remain standing for your wanting.

When you know the justice
Of your frailty and strength against me,
You’ll see there is no seam
To test with fingertip or breathing.

When you feel the silk is right
Against your skin,
You’ll know the ripple of me (hand and lip)
Moving through the rim.

When you renounce the ring
And rive the rock about you,
You will know the sanctity
That gives the universe its meaning
-- Our love its being --
Measured by any eternity you choose.


~ . ~

Tracy K. Smith
A Brief Touristic Account

March 13

It was evening. You were waiting
with a friend, lights flickering--
and the red ember-tips
of nervous cigarettes.

The driver had slowed
to mouth the number of each house
we drove past before yours. Yours--
lamp-lit and silent, though in the silence
just after knocking, I heard

a faint music and your voice
interrupting itself
to reply.


March 14

There was light entering through doorways,
and the furrows of sheet we rose from.

There was the traffic outdoors,
and the traffic of shadows indoors.

There were the wet prints
where our feet had been,

and the two towels
drying in the sun.


March 17

The patio door
framed a tree-occluded sky,
first pale, then red, then dark,
then darker. Each man
who went outside came back
buoyant, like one about
to deliver a punchline.

Sometimes I rose
at the same time as one
of them, and I'd follow him
or he'd follow me over
the tangle of legs and bottles
spoking out from the table
we sat circling. Then I'd

go in the door on the right
to piss quietly, thinking
what it must be like
to stand alone in the garden
sending great, glad,
shimmering arcs
out into the night.


March 22

You, her, him, me.
Four figures in two languages,
like the beginning of a riddle
the moon didn't ponder,
squinting down
from beside the one star
that almost lit our way.


March 24

The worm in the bottle,
that stew-grey turd,
was supposed to suggest
what exactly?
Its last happy exhalations,
lungs giddy, mouth spilling
a necklace of miniscule bubbles
through a world suddenly liquid,
suddenly amber with a warmth
that scalded the eyes--
which blinked once, sealing shut--
then traveled the slender nerves
along its body to the nerve knot
whose final message
was to curl around itself
like a boutonniere
before going limp?

Or something slower?
The long fall, the gradual
un-blurring of images,
disbelief and then
relief, as when I woke,
startled by heat,
to the crackling of logs,
you in the foreground
prodding the flames.


March 26

You woke when the moon dropped below the black waves,
our tent, shone-through by pinpricks of light,

giving the sense of a sky
under the sky.
And we had the same idea:
remove the tent roof,
draw them closer,
offer that bright heaven

the glimpse of its inverse:
uncelestial simplicity,

finitude. And as synonym for
love, both noun and verb:
our bodies, weighted, lightless,


March 28

There was the room devoid of light.
The room so dark it disappeared
from around us,
the dark a tall space
around the shallow space
our breathing filled.

There were the neighbors' voices
singing to God, and the delicate
violence of our bodies renouncing speech,
heat making the room still,
amplifying each sound.


March 30

We slept
a few hours only
in the small bed
in your mother's house.
She slept
the same few hours
behind a curtain
that split the room in two.

You were the first
to disappear,
eyes dreaming,
lungs letting go their
deep unconscious sighs,
so effortlessly rhythmic
you must have dreamt

spilling into chill current
like dark muscles
veined with white—
already so far gone
by the time I lay down,
lying beside you was like
dangling a leg
over the edge
of a drifting boat.


~ . ~

Edwin Torres
This is the Glass Unlit by a Dolphin to My Side

           may I matter—and dislike
           the everyway—of am
           may I make a matter—into
           everyway I am—may I
           like this—and want
           to figure out—this roll
           I am fired by—not gun
           but star

Jumping from the fire
into the fire—voice of glass that
breaks this eardrumhole

Let this hole—an ear
let it be reflected
off this pierced phantasm

Mantra of a man
in glassed maligna

Childless wonder
at home
in arms of world

           size matters—when you’re different
           sez the skinny boy—biting onna moon pie
           caressing his mother’s cheek—her face in his palm

                      Glass that fires
                      into a dolphin’s blowhole
                      Glass that wants to shatter
                      in a dolphin
                      Glass that keeps
                      dolphin afloat
                      Glass is my voice—at work
                      against what I hold

This is the mantra
of a man unglassed—I was
in wonder of my skinny arms

All along
it was my voice
that was shattered


~ . ~

William Wadsworth
The Snake in the Garden Considers Daphne

My less erotic god condemned
my taste for girls less classical
than you, the kind that can't resist
a dazzling advance or trees that stand
for love. Of course I understand
up there it seems to be all light
and prelapsarian elation -- but bear
in mind your lower half that gropes
for water, the slender roots you spread
in secret to fascinate the rocks,
while sunlight pries apart your leaves
and flights of birds arouse the air
around you. If only I could run
a brazen hand along this wood
and feel your heart accelerate
beneath it, rising to your lips.
If only you could pick the whitest
petals from the holy orchard
where I patrol the crevices
and slink along my damned gut,
you could arrange them as you wished
and change the ending of our story.
But we're disarmed, and nothing changes
in our natural gardens -- we cannot grasp
the word hope, which the ones we've tempted
find always at their fingertips.

(The Paris Review and Best American Poetry 1994)


~ . ~

David Yezzi
Woman Holding a Fox

           Buried inside, page 3, below the fold,
a woman crumpled on fresh dirt begins to get the gist:
that she has lost the use of her left leg, that when she tripped
                      her hip gave out. Shock explains
this all to her, a self-assured young doctor mouthing, Rest.

           The reason for the break, a rabid fox
that came at her when she stepped out for half a cigarette.
Age seventy-nine, the paper said; she hadn't toppled far,
                      merely down her few front steps,
but late enough that no one finds her till the following day.

           And here's the eerie part. Just when she thinks
to drag herself down to the curb, the twisted fox comes back.
In hours her arms are bitten blue, waving her one defense.
                      Her glasses lost in tufted grass,
she hears it thread the underbrush before she sees it leap.

           At 2 o'clock, a nurse toggles the lamp.
Something for the pain. Since after dark, the fox has come
to look on her as prey, the way he circles then descends.
                      This is no dream, she tells herself.
Yet it had seemed unreal from the initial streak of red:

           a comedy at first, a photo-op,
then something else, an eye-white flash our unsuspecting trust
shields us from until the outward show no longer jibes.
                      She's landed in her garden row,
her Marlboro still smoking on the carefully weeded path.

           Beyond the gate a sunset has begun,
the swatch of sky above her roof dyed jacaranda-blue.
These are things she sees as she assumes things can't get worse.
                      But then they do. When it returns,
she clasps it to herself. Somehow she's managed to affix

           small hands around its muzzle and bared teeth.
All night she feels it panting and enraged, then weirdly calm.
So off and on for hours until someone spots her there.
                      A neighbor comes, she knows that now.
But on the sedge she hadn't guessed that it would end so well.

           As for what crowds her head: a single thought
repeated in contrition, while the same minute extends,
infinitely regressing between mirrors set opposed.
                      Music's playing down the hall,
carried on a crack of light that shows the door ajar.

           It's nearly dawn. I have not killed the fox,
my arms barely keep him hemmed, my fingers have gone limp.
Across the lawn an amniotic slick of dew gives off
                      a silver sheen and sudden cold.
I'm glad you happened by, she wryly croaks when he appears.

           Before he batters in the hissing fox,
he asks her why she simply didn't let it run away.
I know this creature pretty well by now. She shows her skin.
                      It's true, she understands the fox
and wonders if she hasn't always known that he was there,

           known it when her first child was born,
and known it, too, the day her husband died three years ago.
At any rate she knows it now, will always keep him close
                      in her embrace from day to day,
up to a time when memories of these no longer serve.

(New England Review)


~ . ~ . ~ . ~

Contributors' Notes:

See this month's feature, "Degrees of Affinity", for bios of Jeanne Marie Beaumont, Tiffany Fung, Rafiq Kathwari, Tracy K. Smith, Bill Wadsworth, and David Yezzi.

Maureen Holm, Nicholas Johnson, and Tim Scannell are Senior Essayist/Articles Editor, Senior Poetry Editor, and Reviewer/Essayist, respectively, for the magazine.

Dave Brinks is a native New Orleanian, a poet, editor, publisher (Trembling Pillow Press), and the founder of The New Orleans School for the Imagination. Publications include: New Orleans Review, Exquisite Corpse, A Gathering of the Tribes, New Laurel Review, The Double Dealer, Café Progresso, Rougewave, Mesechabe, Fell Swoop, Anemone, and Jejune Literary Review, Trope, (magazines) and Thus Spake the Corpse (Black Sparrow Press, 1999), From a Bend in the River (Runagate Press, 1998), Best Poetry on the Web (Graywolf Press, 2001) (anthologies). Poetry editor at Gambit Weekly, along with Andrei Codrescu, for an anthology of love poetry titled Heart-Shaped Vox, Brinks has lectured at Tulane University, and taught workshops at NOCCA. He will edit an anthology for City Lights Books and a monthly poetry column for Where Y’at Magazine, and will read at the Prague Summer Series in July 2001, and at St. Marks Poetry Project in New York in Fall 2001. A first runner-up for The Marble Faun Prize, his three collections are The Snow Poems (Lavender Ink, 2000 <http://www.lavenderink.org>), Trial and Eros (Indiana University Press, 2001), and How Birds Fly (Red Dot, 2001).

Dana Gioia's 1991 Atlantic Monthly essay, "Can Poetry Matter?", provoked a nationwide debate on the place of poetry in contemporary intellectual life, even as he was acknowledged as 'one of the most accomplished and compelling poets to have emerged on either side of the Atlantic over the past decade.' (Charles Causley). That essay became the lead article in his book of the same title (Graywolf Press, 1992), one of the essential works profiled on Big City Lit's Bookshelf. Gioia is a prominent essayist, anthologist, BBC commentator, co-founder of the annual West Chester Conference on Form & Narrative, judge, and translator (notably of Seneca and Montale). Interrogations at Noon is his third poetry collection, preceded by Daily Horoscope and Gods in Winter (also from Graywolf Press). The opera, Nosferatu, with his libretto, will be presented in recital version in West Chester in June. (Excerpts appear in this month's Other Arts.)

Edwin Torres is a bilingual poet, rooted in the languages of both sight and sound, who has been creating text and performance work since 1988. Mingling the textures of poetry with vocal and physical improvisation, sound elements and visual theater, his live performances create organic landscapes that exist beyond language. (See Archive, March 2001, for our review of "Gecko, An Opera in Three Colors".) Torres first emerged as a regular feature at The Nuyorican Poets Café and at The St. Marks Poetry Project as workshop leader and curator. With his debut CD Holy Kid he "reconciled the diametrically opposed poetic agendas of The Nuyorican and Language Poetry . . . [to create] something so new [it] is sure to embarrass small minds still clinging to minute agendas." (New York Press, 1998). Holy Kid is included in the exhibition, "The American Century, Pt. II" at The Whitney Museum Of American Art. From 1993 to 1999, as a member of the poetry collective, Real Live Poetry, he performed and conducted workshops across the U.S. and abroad. Torres has self-published three chapbooks and his work has appeared in a number of anthologies including, Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, An Anthology of New (American) Poets, and Verses That Hurt: Pleasure and Pain from the Poemfone Poets. He's also included on the CD compilations, Flippin' The Script: Rap Meets Poetry, Poemfone New Word Order, and Nuyorican Symphony: Poetry Live at the Knitting Factory.