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This poem is taken from PN Review 150, Volume 29 Number 4, March - April 2003.Four Poems
Rhode Island Waltz
We tilt five degrees
Off of true, precarious in photograph, stiff
In three-quarter time. Our rotation
Is unnatural as architecture. A palace seen in cross-section,
Fiercely rendered. A mansard roof slipping
From the lintels in stop-motion, intricate
In betrayal. This is me before the car starts moving
In the space beside you, in a debutante hour, when the lights
On houses are just starting to glow; thin-fingered
And dangerously fine of wrist, sketching
The ruins of a building twisted in the middle
Whose walls are surprised to find themselves
Skewed. That was me on the corner
Of Angell Street, where a line of sparrows suddenly halted, below
A branch cut clean through, before a window
Gone off-kilter, me on tiptoe
Trying not to touch you where you stopped
In the bare centre of a world, perfect in scale
To ascertain the angle of each elevation,
Learning the sight-lines off by heart.
I have been away too long. The radios crackle
In continuous forecast: sunken treasure soundings.
Chests of gold are chiselled open. In France, an ancient shark
Sheds its skin of amber. The specimen is well-preserved.
What happens to sleepers when their lids are shut
Is invisible to the world. In a vampire's casket
Lies a lifeless dreamer trying to escape.
I have been singled out by fate
To become a creature that lives in the dark alone. A natural
Craver of attention. A professional moaner.
I am coming back, back
With a trash artist's vengeance, hieratic in eyeliner, marabou
Blond, back like an automatic
.22 pistol, a sweetheart, a stainless: whiplash
Smart, back in business,
Back with bells on, back spitfire, back sharp.
I have been dangerous,
But now there's no stopping. I have been glamorous,
But not for long enough.
They're calling, they're calling for overtures and beginners -
Flashbulbs everywhere, my dear. Won't you lead me in?
Elijah, Helen, Paul, and me
Clocked the cat by the bikesheds. 1.43. Kept an eye
Peeled for falsies. Hid in the bushes from Aunt Kay.
Made a dead letter drop and drank Russian tea.
I'm the smallest; Elijah is our control.
Our mission? That's undercover for now. We can't tell
How this enigma will unfold, but we're so full
Of energy we can't come down.
We've got our own lingo and wear special suits -
Study the codebook, radio for supplies,
Draw our cryptic pictures, stay up all night.
We kill time waiting for our lives to start
With log notes: Saw a demented corgi piss
On someone's shoe. Shadowed D.F. back
To his flat. Observed a parrot sat
On someone's head. I am past
seventeen and have never been
Readying for bed, I take the now-familiar stance,
Back against the wall, arms bent,
Locked in a figure like an anatomical model.
Press and release is how I keep count.
To learn to use an artificial limb
A body must become artificial itself,
Learn how to move, then move like a machine.
Tendon, tunnel, muscle, sheath.
It seems I cannot change myself enough.
After my tooth was extracted, they planted
A screw and a screw in the gap, then added
A fake tooth on top, but it didn't take.
I don't believe things happen for a reason.
I don't remember what it was like before.
Press, release, repeat, repeat.
I can't tell whether it makes me stronger.
This poem is taken from PN Review 150, Volume 29 Number 4, March - April 2003.