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From Archicembalo
What Is Cadence

Ask if this showing will make a better weave. Does one mistake a pig for a dog, a dog for a bear, a bear for a horse, does one mistake a horse for a pig though very small, does this disenfranchise, does it require a discrete referendum and if so how often and besides.

A prayer wheel resolves any broad theft: yes or no.

If I subtract sacrifice from appetite from what fierce attention do I then compromise a strict union, have I faltered, have I made an argument for grace. What is union, time’s whistles and bells, the whole commodious diapason behind which a third nation lingers. In one variant you whisper Sweet prince, sweet prince. In another I am the handmaid of the Lord.

Into or out of can I buy my way, can I ply my way, by what prescribed motion does this egress take a spectral reading or from what distance do these colors run.

Do I yet withstand the adoption.

In a village in the Pyrenees snow is filed in the vaults of a decrepit museum. This is le Musée d’hiver, this is the archive of every chill and arctic blow. Shall I then take you, bundled in shed life and waiting. And what token will you bear, no coin of any pleasant realm will suffice, no calorie, no torrid receipt, the doorkeeper is my personal friend but he makes no exceptions, you must explain yourself, you must display the badge that I vouchsafe, that I cannot dispense, this is a complex admission, you must give satisfactory account.

Things happen while you sleep. Some of them happen to you.

I favor a candling essence. Can one learn from Plato (after all) or is "mixed" really just the imperfect in its most common form, does this require any special station or redress, is this a fraternal achievement.

Perfect: corm and nightblood. Interrupted: the central story. Imperfect: a master of this generation. Plagal: his iron wheel.

—My kerchief, my agon, my Easter, my bright gradient hum. 


What Is a Piano

Prophecy as in elucidate, prophecy as in foretell. A man with a vision in a mountain town can vet the difference: spruce this time. Cameras in risky places. The Sibyl in her cage, a dusty waltz, gram by gram as veneration limps earthward.

A prism inhabited by a small bird, a wren, maybe.

Bad parties are in evidence everywhere. Elementary school parties, blastocyst cotillons, tollkeeper jamborees. The worst parties. Shuffleboard? (Thank you, Mr. Bones.) Le malheur indigène, la vierge vestale metaphysique.

The more parties, the more rules for parties. Shanty-town meets sonnet-wallow.

I have been spying for a little over six hours now on the glass doorknob of the hairdresser at 6th & Clinton. The limbo provides a perfect post-colonial rubric.

One by one the accompanists, no longer needed, are dying from the boardwalks. They are incredibly soft in their last moments—like ripe gourds or velvet they are begging to be touched. They are nervous. No word has come from their advance scouts. They are fragile as soap bubbles, and as iridescent. They leave moist rings when they leave us.

Major media. An abduction that lies down at nightfall. 


What Is a Hexachord

Blowing from Matinicus from Criehaven this wind is a progressive advection, it lacks a consecutive dialectic, is this a hermitage, an unriddling, is it some new trick. Does a bridge cleanse and if so how will the children learn and when, how will they move. And be moved. To move. How will the children move and the wind as it brushes up past Boothbay into Booth Bay and into the river, when or how does a bay become a river or a river a bay, when I step into it, when I or anyone steps, when and what then is a child, did I carry or was I carried or is childhood really this daily island life.

If not why not.

But the wind blows. This is indisputable, this is the nature of wind, one does not have to be a bridge, to build a bridge, to negotiate a causeway to understand, one does not have to pledge one’s self to alternative energy sources, it is enough to be a citizen, it is enough to learn. To be a citizen could mean to own a boat. It once meant this.

Low tide at Hodgdon Ledge. Is this a form of voting, have I performed my civic duty.

I have walked to the south pond and back and I have walked Long Cove on the east side and I have walked Long Cove on the west side. I have seen Tarbox Cove and Jewett Cove and Knubble Cove and Brooks Cove and I have walked on the East Shore Road and on the West Shore Road. I walk and have walked and in walking so walking do.

I sing as I walk when I have breath which is not always.

Have I tailored the sea-gale to any prior fallacy, have I discerned: the germ. The pattern. The sortilege, the apocalypse, the subliminal response.

To the traditional hexachords (hard/natural/soft) Guido d’Arezzo added the device known as the Guidonian Hand. Eleventh century. A physical mnemonic, as shin for sound or thumb for shoal. Gastrocnemius, the belly of the leg. Ut re mi now modernized in the movable-doh which some use which some do very well use but not so different not so very different no.

Oil sheen. If one makes a fetish of furniture can one travel there.

I score these words with my fingertips. Over the bay a lone tern is wheeling. There is not so much, not so much as I had thought, not much though it is enough, I thought, though I think, though I say, though I will never say it cannot be enough, I was once a child, it is enough to have been a child and to have known this, to know and to be, to ferry, to cross, to apprehend is to remember and it is enough, I know. I am. And so the music makes me. 


What Is the Real Answer

There is this high keening I can do nothing about. It is the source of many things. The breaking of bread, for instance. A concealed (refr)action. There are small armies among us, and they seek out the most moist places.

Every sound is tropical, every sound is perishable. My aunt sends one wrapped in butcher paper & string. I refuse to open it and so it remains on a shelf next to Blackwell’s Curious Herbal and a bag of homemade noodles, quivering.

In the eighteenth century it was not uncommon for large landowners to conclude that nursemaids were spies. Dear outrageous cataleptic inhibitor, their letters would begin, Dear Anglophone gasconade. Heft of a pomegranate.

I add cider vinegar, I add extra oil. Knead until the muscles of each palm register their pulsed exequies. The honey, the redress. The observer and the observed.

With maturity becomes the desire to be asked, no longer to play the supplicant. When my Lord asks a question winter answers for me. Why I prefer doors to windows, bridges to saints. Why insist on scumble.

(Do we choose the means of our drowning? Or do others choose for us?)

At night in my room I practice each dance step, slowly, carefully. After the manner of an exile.

In this dream I wash locks, tubs of Yales, until my fingers begin to bleed. I splash sudsy water on the cold flagstones. No one else is around. Every now and then I think I hear a sound from the next room, but I am mistaken. 


What Is Pulse

In the next apartment a telephone is ringing. I begin to count. After an interval it stops, and I think, Someone has died.

It begins to get colder. Tomorrow someone is coming to measure my radiators.

The beauty of war is the advancement of technology. Afterwards, new forms of entertainment arise in order to move product. Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, General Electric, Mutual of Omaha. War is one long commercial for technology. We complain about it but secretly don’t want it to end.

I think, You are in China now. I think, You are searching for a flower that will correspond perfectly to the strawberry birthmark on your left hip.

Colt, Remington, Peabody. The conveyance, the village, the self. In a free market economy the local is discounted like a polyester shift: it’s there, but wrapped in plastic. Morton-Thiokol, Martin-Marietta. Nothing personal. At the subatomic level what we call movement is a convenient fiction.

Fresh from the funeral you wear scarlet leggings. I know this because I dreamt it, and then the temperature began to fall.

Some metals you heat to temper, some you cool. Napoleon advancing across Russia, thigh-deep in snow.

I think, Theodore Roosevelt won a Nobel Peace Prize for negotiating an end to the Russo-Japanese conflict. Old Rough ’n’ Ready. He understood the difference between terminologies, between terms. It could be argued that he saved the buffalo. He understood conflict the way he liked a brisk walk around the Albany streets at evening. To work up the blood.

Colder yet. You are striding now over a rough steppe. High altitude, memories of the herd at St. Ignatius. And the chapel. A mass in your most holy name. 


What Is a Tritone

Volition. One begins then two then more than two, four, then five, is more than five a legitimate gratuity, ten, is twenty, is more than twenty.

One begins with a wound, is this what I’m hiding. To what extent does a wound express and is therefore audible, do guests at breakfast hear it, or as such, do they look up from a lingersome repast and do they then suggest therapy—a medical explanation—does this augment the estrangement, does it depend upon the number of guests.

—Prohibited in some times and places. Mi contra fa diabolus est in musica, this was accepted wisdom, this is a syllabic conceit. In the garden where I walked. In the garden where I or anyone walked, where I heard, where anyone heard, where I called or was called and calling thus shifted the leaves from one green branch to another, I or anyone.

Is there more to come about food. Yes. In this poem. No.

A mendicant obsession, was this enough to cop a plea, to prompt a theft, when I first heard it I was in a spacious hall with poor acoustics in Cambridge, Massachusetts, it was a dusty place, though I was raised with a piano in the house, though I grew up singing I had not heard it before, I mean I had no name for it, can I or can anyone hear without taxonomy, can we name this tune. Machault Dufay Beethoven even John Cage if we so choose.

The wound does not heal. I pledge my kingdom but find only long sleep and a solo lament. This is established, this is recorded. This has already been committed to film.

Counterfeit coins in a leather purse.

By a pleasant fire one sits, one drinks, one can forget and if so does this make one separate, does one consent. By a pleasant fire the expulsion crouches in its liminal heat. Two long-stemmed yellow roses register the difference between precision and delight. Not hunger.

I am a guest, therefore am I wounded and do I hear it. I do.

—No weak broth, no superalter; aspect’s logical complaint. I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem. One begins, two begin. One begins. One begins again.

G. C. Waldrep’s most recent books are feast gently (Tupelo) and the long poem Testament (BOA Editions). Other recent work has appeared in The American Poetry Review, New England Review, Yale Review, Iowa Review, Colorado Review, New American Writing, Conjunctions, etc. Waldrep lives in Lewisburg, PA, where he teaches at Bucknell University and edits the journal West Branch.