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Four Poems

“I would dearly like to bring you back …”
—Marie Curie to Irène Curie, August 1914

Chocolate wrapped in its foil
Cadences of tinkers in the street.

We could spend an afternoon
calculating for n, and later

training primrose and dropping
maple rotors from the window

onto the city, resplendent
atop its catacombs. Lunch was

half a pomegranate from a stall
in the Place de la Bastille.

Remember when hope was as simple
as division of cells?


News reaches me now: a capsule
exploded in your laboratory.

I recognize this land, though
it’s estranged and will never

be rid of winter. 


Standard balloon construction: this frailty
we thought would hold against however many
decibels, whatever category storms,
although we watched cul-de-sacs
bloom overnight, concrete slabs like a river icing up
followed by pilings, joists, studs, a false canopy.

These were the days we dreamt planetary
landings, papier-mâché, solenoids of copper wire coiled
like ringlets in a girlie magazine. Who was it
kept white gas near Southern Comfort?
A rasp and a finer file for sharpening lawnmower blades,
a place for burning the roofs of our mouths,

sunbleaching photographs, secreting extra keys.
A place we could practice the neglect
required to keep on going: droplets rising
to the edges fleeter than sensation,
quartzite pressed into a sleeping hand.

We only ever wanted to gather and cast. Instead,
we were standard balloon construction
leaning into prevailing wind.
It turns out this very afternoon
is a knockdown. 


The room to which you are led
has the aura of seizure, private illumination,
crawl space behind a cameo or scrim.

           The bitten bench. The lathe he leans
           against. Tall posts for a canopy swing:
           the slashing legs of a thoroughbred.

The last of three sets—which he plans
to give away to his youngest daughter
when she’s married off—rests assembled,

           disassembled, stashed
           in the space between ceiling joists
           where it will be discovered

by his wife’s next husband, who will take the pieces
for good enough kindling—their splitting
dry deliciousness—and feed them to the stove.

           Here, they’ll sing an uncanny Agnus Dei
           in sisterly harmonies. The sparks
           winnowing out like midges.

The shore’s continual suggestion.
Once a curved green piece arrived,
explained as a Japanese fishing net buoy.

           Another ocean. Exactly that. Whitecaps
           are furnaces, when you think of it.
           The same crisp light, the same drizzling.

One sister gets to know the gone sister’s
daughter. Thinking You remind me of you.
The light and shade come together in a dovetail.

           The green glass thrown back
           and a bench at the bottom of the stairs.
           Someone else will have to pick the horses

from now on. Agnus Dei in green silks.
Or Dovetail, perhaps. 


The scenes in which you feature
have been set afire: Camden Hills in October;
early Hollywood color.

                                      The lurid waters
of the bay gain and give ambiguously.
Pinnacles glint: a flash of flesh, a turn of phrase.

Your fear of being alone
is profound in the warehouse district.

Which is not to say the scenes are unpeopled:
consider the family of raccoons
looking on from the storm drain.
Or the children in pioneer dress
texting while guiding hoops
down the leafy neighborhood.

Benjamin Landry is the author of Burn Lyrics and Particle and Wave. His poems have appeared in journals such as the New Yorker and Kenyon Review, links to which can be found at his website. He teaches creative writing at SUNY Potsdam, where he also directs the Peace Poetry Project.