Two Poems
Of the Meadow

“Did you like Switzerland?” you ask for the first time
And motion for someone else to take the wheel.
Trope of what? You are no one’s mother,
No one’s daughter-in-law
And are not exemplary.
                                    What of the meadow?
Lavish, syntactic, new in the natural key,
Frugal and obscure in translation.
So you want to put it in a jar
On the mantelpiece to steer us in a direction,
Into casual excellence, once wild.
Something about it makes you hurry
Before the next one comes along
To render it formal, instructive, true.
You want to be known
As the one who got out from under,
Who’d survived the winter. But
Yesterday I heard you say “shredded,” “dice,”
Taking what you could get, like a stranger.

Say, “We did not get what we came for,”
And then proceed to your destination
Like a commercial without sound.
Strip away the drama, the script,
And come to the task refreshed.
Days pass, with rain, with mice
Busy in the eaves; another pond nearby.
Engage it to drain or flush
The episode out: kneeling, as children,
Against the event, plucking the bloom
From the Chinese screen which, you believe,
Later went up in flames. But that could be
Only the fatigue of memory washed clean,
Bleached, newly ransacked and incredulous
But for its renown, wandering
The upper tier of a proscenium
Garbed in quotations, acquisitions,
Sheets of white linen already, initially, inscribed.
You tell yourself to wait, say
The actor is the audience, the audience asleep
On a bench in a park in a small city
That the troupe might visit.
The water seems to lengthen in the breeze.
Later, dream the image, adding time to space,
And someone, correctly, says, “We knew all along
That the city was beautiful.” So things
Manage to go on in a parade of similarities:
Lilies on this pond; that pond.
And the long curtains divide
Still touching the shore, the stage, the glass.

On the pier, among the banished,
Sealed away from the hot toys
Listed on the page as “fable”
Our sightseeing continues
Like a flock risen from ashes
Where the fire stood bequeathed, or stolen.
“Where are the matches?” I had asked, my feet
Wet from long grass.
That girl keeps running by the door.
That man keeps speaking into the microphone.
That kid keeps asking questions.
You keep saying, in answer to mine,
“No, I am happy.”
                                    So I go on coming to it
As to the edge of water,
Blind with a fiction of recovery.
Is this what you meant by persistence?
The voice recorded into mimicry,
The water folding light into its surface,
The girl materializing like a path along the ridge.
What are the signs, now
That you cannot correct the impression
As I arrange the flowers, as I notice the incomplete.


The French Girl

Someone plays
                         & the breaking mounts.
Raw material for worthy forthcoming;
Indecipherable, discrete.
Rhapsodies as the air cools
And vanquishes: noting sits still, yet.
The land is a result of its use, I explained.
Everything else rested while the kids made a girdle
Removed from classical syntax. Shed, and

Something breaks, mounting
The small hill to its vista: I saw
A rope of trees in another country.
I could not say “I am lost” in a proper way.
The season is huge.
This house is haunted: I planted it.
Where? In the shed, and 

Spoiled by attention. You see?
Every bit counts, when the morning displays
The serious ratio of the given stars.
What made us tear the hours into lines?
So things became a burden to shed, and 

Astute as a hungry pilgrim
But not brave, sucking and expert.
It is impolite to stare. Is unwise
To plunder the easily forgotten,
Easily shed, and 

They drummed and drummed, attached to a vestigial
Clamor. The heat splayed; sparklers
Ravished the fog.
Morning tore the dead back to shore;
Enemy ships floundered and were forgotten.
Still, nothing was appeased:
The living silhouette drifted into view
Like an ephemeral sail promoting ease
Between wreckages.
                                    Not speaking a word of English,
She animated the landscape
With abundance, a chosen self
Freely translated into the color of her eyes;
Awkward, luminous, a stilted charm
Separating figure from ground, and solving it.
What pushed us toward the abysmal
With such new appraisals, such sure interest?
The mute girl had seen glories
But what had she come to know?
A finite figure in a rainy field.
A naked figure in a pool.
A skipping figure across a bridge.
A lost figure on a city street.
A moaning figure on a huge bed.
A smiling face in a photograph.
All summer, I circle the garden for her sake.

Ann Lauterbach teaches at Bard College. Her books of poetry include Under the SignOr to Begin Again, and Hum.