Web Conjunctions: Three Poems, by Melinda Markham

CONJUNCTIONS: A Web Exclusive
Three Poems
Malinda Markham



What brittle, what waiting, what animal, what sleep

MnemonicsTo float:
hand plucks the floating child from water

To pierce: cut thorns from drooping tree

To praise: name eight bamboo-like plants. Attainment:
moving pigs reach goal. Loss: man missing

a hand, a serious loss. To worship: show me
the purification text. Lips:

there is no mnemonic for lips


What the eye can hold—a glass door shut a mouth
open and shut a thousand times
and grief (even fresh) cannot change this

The roof parallel to the ground, we say it is like the ground
The raised arm parallel to the floor, we say it is the floor

Herons fight in the trees like white cloth.
(the body a market and in it I am safe)







In the dusk, children shout like small barking

Leaves fail, but the voices remain. At 5:30 p.m.,
a loudspeaker calls

all the people home. There is no danger
here, only time passing. The rattle at the doorway

is only an instance of sun

Tu Fu wrote about spring: Blossoms scattering so deep and reckless might at least / Teach these rhapsodic orioles they are trying too hard.

Blue iris in bathwater
is said to drive illness-causing spirits away







Silent trees are failure and fault

Half the creatures come when called, half tilt away

How can sleep be counted? In grains.
How can people live in a jar? They tether their children to spring.
How relative is hunger? It has lain beneath the floorboards all night
and is yours.

The mouth of a boy photographed in 1897:

more a collection of lines than a child. His hands
don’t show.

Has he no hands? Only the hair is alive.

Through the garden is a path which ends
In a main road with grates.

Do not fall in. Do not imagine yourself
Water here yet







A Sequence in Asking

Feed the sparrows, and they will feed you
in turn. Love the enemy, his buttons are bright.
Fever rises like lies, it settles in a pocket
that begs to be touched. Can you discern
which arrows are mine? I speak the same
as anyone here. The house was built of sticks
and wool. When ceiling beams moved at night,
we swaddled them with silk. When cracks
in the eaves closed, pigeons moved to the sills
and startled into glass. Serve tea to the guests
and fold their linen in swans. Fruit fills
their mouths, little spoons. Let violins lull
the ears shut. Let marrow break between the teeth
like warmth. When the sky curves in its own
wet path, I will name all that I know.
When calling-sounds left like water, in stains,
I set acorns on fire and floated them
down the alley for luck. All this is yours
for the asking. On the day I am narrow
as glass, you be the sun do not let me grow cold.







Compendium Notes

To cut an animal tongue, to turn the body
to gold. Figure burst whole from fruit,
then bend back in. Your skin
is fresh, the bruise is just a moment
and fine. The man, his hand sink into the sea.
A woman on another, a knife at her eye.
There are stories. To swell (a mother),
to retract into figurative
sleep. Embed a word in a single rib
& live eighty years longer than the rest.
Tie cloth around the eyes. A body
covered in blue will be safe, the eyes
turn up on cue. What is severed, what is kneeling,
what prostrate on the ground. Unveil the legs
in monstrous glee. This is not a feast
and at least one lack cannot be avenged.
Fallen persimmons quiet the eyes.
What climbs, what steals, what severs
in threes. One opening leads to the next.
This is only my mouth, I’m sure
you know the rest. To break, to turn liquid,
to drink the answer down. I for one
have given. “Send the butcher back
when he arrives at the gate.” A paper bird
melts in the rain. Its rider stares
death in the mouth and can’t speak.
A figure of light, a lie, a woman so pure
children only believe. To sow, to steep,
to follow unthinking. Animal love a tree
too much. Be killed by what it has planted.

To cut (tongue), to engorge, to turn the legs to gold. bursts whole from the fruit, then retreats back in. The skin is fresh and a bruise nothing more than a moment and fine. Mark time by surface changes and truth by what remains. The man, his hand sink into the sea. A woman on another with a knife at the younger’s eye. These are stories. To swell (a mother) and retract into death. Embed a word in a single rib and live 100 years longer than the rest. The body covered in blue will be safe and eyes look up on cue. What is severed, kneeling, prostrate on the ground. Unveil the legs in monstrous glee. This is not a feast and at least one lack cannot be avenged. They say. Persimmons fall and quiet the eyes. What climbs, what borrows, what severs in threes. One opening leads to another. This is my mouth, I’m sure you know the rest. To break, turn to water, to drink the answer down. I for one have given. “Send the butcher back when he arrives at the gate.” A paper bird melts in the storm; its rider stares death in the mouth and can’t speak. A figure of light, a lie, a woman so pure the children can only believe. To sow, to steep, to obey. Animal love a tree too much. Be killed by what it has planted.