Online Exclusive

Three Poems
The Little Blind Girls

In the Bay of Biscay 
Deep into the sea 
Lives Obadiah
The giant Nautilus. 

Obadiah is obsessed. 
I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote.

In the Bay of Biscay
Down in the briny deep
Live the little blind girls. 

Benedicamus Domino, they shout to Obadiah
Let us bless the Lord— 
But Obadiah is obsessed. 

In the Bay of Biscay
Little blind girls wear blue dresses with mandarin collars
And they pray and pray. 

Obadiah, the giant Nautilus
Eats the fish the little blind girls scale and clean for him. 

Dominus vobiscum, they shout to Obadiah
The Lord be with you— 
But Obadiah is obsessed. 

The girls are unhappy. 
They dress candles in vinegar
They steal sugar and cigarettes from Obadiah— 
They are bored living on the sea-bed
Past Abyssinian breeding-mares
Past saltwater apple-trees
They do not know how to practice self-restraint
I am tormented with an everlasting itch for things remote. 

The Book of Recondite Facts

Let’s declare ourselves a long way from home
They say that a priest on a boat often caused shipwreck

Let’s chat the hours away
In most agrarian societies, it is the custom to marry after the crops are harvested

Let’s tuck in our shirts and go out with a single pain in our minds
Blindfolded men cannot distinguish severe burning from severe freezing

There must be an end of trifling and even time must have a stop
The carotid pulse is the last pulse you lose before you die

Let’s throw away the oars caked with moss and mussels
Catholic priests were blinded by having lime and vinegar rubbed into their eyes

Let’s stay in a boat in the middle of the sea
Salt consists of two substances, which are poisons, sodium and chlorine. 

Let’s fool the siren call of sleep by reciting facts
KR: abbreviation in chess for “king’s rook”

The strangeness that we can never work out
Pilgrims coming from Santiago de Compostela wore cockleshells in their hats—

Yes, the smell of oatmeal and antiseptic from the kitchen
Yes, you wonder how many things in the world deserve your loyalty
Well can’t you see I have cake in my mouth? 

I’ll tell you something if you promise not to get mad— 
All you need is a strong sense of what is fitting
Facts, like love really, are most unreliable
They are shadows of rabbits made by hands on the wall
They smell like burnt mineral
They are only as strong as China tea
They have no patience with anyone
And one day they’ll cause you a lot of unhappiness. 

One Chair

We’re in an empty room
Where there is only one chair
And you’re sitting on it. 
There is nowhere else for me to sit. 

I move around the room
And while we talk
Without fretting
Pretending there’s nothing unusual in it
I stop before you and 
I sit on your knees. 

You act as if nothing forbidden has happened. 
After all, there is no other chair
Surely no one can stay standing for a long time, 
One must get a rest. 

And it is while I am on your lap
Feeling entitled 
Because of necessity
That I begin to store happiness. 
What we don’t eat in season
We’re canning for the winter. 

You’re talking on and on
But this is less an affair of diction
You and I know more. 
You pretend there are no sad, large pieces around us
And you’re staring at my ankles dangling in the air. 

We don’t know what’s going to happen to us. 
What can you do with love not allowed? 
Having so intensely imagined ourselves as carefree people
We remain seated. 
You and I can withstand very cold water. 

A life without upset
Is rainfall collected in cisterns.