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07.11.17
Four Poems
Still Life with Dysphonia
 
In the palace of music, a gathering of the mute:
this became the body.
 
In the asphalt’s cracked path, a clutch
of frog eggs: a teaspoon of froth, a shoal of dark water
 
haloed blue. Mouths spooked open
 
to O, the choired sky; double
artifice, the trebled singers spoking the hall’s
 
spectacular skylight: coins of stained glass pooled
to a colossal droplet poising
 
the milling audience, bronze and copper
 
and gold. To make matter what wasn’t
between you, you said I
 
love you. Imported for this particular
 
drift, swan that circled the park’s tiny island, alto
clef of her neck in reflection among cypress
 
knees, a child being photographed in her dotted-swiss best
 
among the groomed daffodils. All those belled
golden throats. Click.
 
Click. The shuttered air recalling what you cupped
your ear to—the steeled tracks, the disappearing
 
parallel—what you lowered to the dampened
ground for, what you clear
 
your throat for: what isn’t
 
coming, though the soldered ceiling wheels
its staff of glazed bones above you:
 
The baton already lifted, cocked.


 



Still Life with Cusco: Cochineal and Zapata’s Last Supper
 
To harvest color, lobe by lobe the cactus is shaved
clean of its colonies—each gravid insect
 
a fugitive cargo of eggs carmine-steeped, encased
in ash: like a gray sweater pilling, then the bright
 
starburst in the palm. The open-limbed view the ring of disciples
unhinges to: cuy, enduring indigenous meat—splayed
 
on its platter; the crimson cloak, the pale wafer
of Christ’s face: the better half of betrayal, like virga hovering
 
above fields of prickly pear, all those
atmospheric optics—sun pillars, hole-punch clouds, a sunset’s
 
claret. Fall streaks. And the dry
equation of scripture: his left hand clutching a small
 
pillow of bread, two fingers of the right tensed toward his own
glowing face. Bread, body. Like rain that ignites
 
the fire, never grounding—the sky torn, the bolt
descending: One per version of the sacred is one
 
definition of savior; to rescue, to gather the clipped
to sanctuary: vicuña, sheared of her stellar
 
virgin wool; puma, claw-plucked to prowl a discotheque’s
thumping floors. A condor cropped
 
to a farm of feathers. The city’s station: to quarter
the quartering, each limb freed from the resisting
 
body; to frame the church-studded plaza hung
with oils. Zapata’s Supper, absent the lamb, a seamless
 
jointing—what measure subversion, what measure
struck faith? At the heart of the sanctuary
 
at the heart of the cathedral riveted from the old city walls
gnawed to their crux, to an unserifed sentence
 
of stones so exactly puzzled not a blade of grass
could pass between: not a feather, not an eyelash. Not
 
the disk of a day moon; not the elbow of a shadow
razed from its house of desert sun, the thorned limb
 
scaled with insects clustered like a broken head
of wheat, the gleaner’s fingers pursed to demonstrate
 
yield—not the mosquito slapped sipping
at the tail-thump of his wrist, but the clotted grains,
 
his transfigured palm rouged with the surfacing
opacity of cardinal nectar by which I mean
 
these girls’ own burst bodies he holds out,
yes, for us.


 



Still Life with Phantom Crane Fly and Vanity Mirror
 
Absent the light-speckled thicket camouflage is lost
her zebraed legs   triple-jointed quills like folding
 
seeing-eye canes half-ratcheted    splayed
into place    a bruised lilt as she lurches
 
her stilled wings the veined gauze
of obsolescence riding the fan’s current
 
that’s caught her   a cottonwood’s
parachuting seed   an image
 
of home you keep
dreaming as a mortgage you’d signed
 
and somehow forgotten   the house
rotting without you   and you living
 
basement by basement    what you’d witnessed
in swamped forest air    spectacle’s creature
 
a dozen unspooling legs  just a tangled
mating    your bed long made
 
beneath bare-bulbed earth    shelved one-
eighty-proof rum    the Ford you’d street-raced
 
through neighborhoods kept
taking you nowhere and one night
 
into a ditch   the dealer you idolized the one
you let drive    you passed out proving
 
you were your father’s daughter and could
take it   his name was Trip    his name
 
wasn’t Trip  he was famous for the huge
falling-down house he’d kept
 
a half dozen runaways at to sell
for him    including your friend Troy
 
in the backseat   how nostalgic they were
for that lost house    you kept for two years
 
in a nightstand drawer the rolled socks he left
that night in your car    as if you could remember him
 
unpeeling them    maybe they’re still there the way
heroin killed Troy but not
 
for decades    the way your ghosted jaw would ache
when you’d wake unable to voice
 
the difference between seedpod
and wing   the thready body
 
both labyrinth and a taut
unspooling   legs hollow    breathing
 
a diffusion    batting the silvered surface  the slivered
room   that expansive mirage
 
sealed there    the glass you slip over her
you cup your hand there   fling her
 
out the window   some other breeze
to catch her   one you didn’t
 
snap on by a switch igniting
the wall   his name was Jerome   I
 
was an acid trail in a set
of fitting room mirrors
 
dissolving to you    vacancy chain
in reverse    you learned to be by being
 
least    most distant    the o
so gullible one batting a fractured
 
room of glass    you let her go    rather
I made her gone


 



Still, with Trip
 
Trick isn’t in wining,
dining: hit,
 
miss. Trick is picking
with skill, gilding
 
this girl driving
blind; priming girl-bits
 
with quick highs: spliff,
gin; brimming
 
in blitz—it isn’t will
inviting will, it’s
 
jiving, it’s timing
stripping this listing
 
thing: prizing thighs,
pinning wrists, ribs,
 
lips, with hips, prick,
imprinting I: minting
 
in child, Bitch.
This skirt-hiking
 
giving-in isn’t limb
stitching limb, skin
 
spicing skin: it’s
circling, it’s wing-
 
clipping, divining chinks I
fist in. It’s winning.
 
This pitch, this flinch—
writhing is icing, I drink it
 
in. Slick Wiz I, I’m
chill, I’m with it, Christ, I’m
 
striking it rich. I’m His
gift—skill, wit, this
 
stiff hilt I swing:
if light’s listing ship
 
is sinking, if civil
twilight, virgin
 
night, is tiding in,
it isn’t I: girls
 
spirit sin. Which split,
drifting girl’s filth
 
will I witch this night?
Miss Shrinking Girl, Miss
 
Whining Girl, Miss Victim
Miss Pills/Slit-Wrist Girl:
 
Miss Scribbling Girl, sling it
shrill, hiss with infin-
 
iting might. Dish it.
I’m thick brick, biding
 
I bind. Sick strict
in bridling, I’m whipping
 
birch limbs, I’m disciplining
lightning. Girl, bring it.
 
I’m whistling, I’m
spiking it in. High sign.
 
Kiss kiss. I’m still
riding high.

Sandra Meek is the editor of Deep Travel: Contemporary American Poets Abroad (Ninebark 2007) and the author of five books of poems: An Ecology of Elsewhere (Persea 2016); Road Scatter (Persea 2012); Biogeography, winner of the Dorset Prize (Tupelo 2008); Burn (2005); and Nomadic Foundations, winner of the Peace Corps Writers Award in Poetry (2002). The recipient of a 2011 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry and the 2015 Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America, she has twice been awarded Georgia Author of the Year. Meek is a founding editor of Ninebark Press, director of the Georgia Poetry Circuit, poetry editor of the Phi Kappa Phi Forum, and Dana Professor of English, Rhetoric, and Writing at Berry College.