Five Poems

It does not come as hairline fractures
mapping plaster with brittle rivers
nor with the unmeasured gait
of a tulip’s averting grace
lathed to half-rhyme with death
while these others, these anemones,
peel back like Padau’s choir of angels
plummeting and stayed, frescoes of disbelief
that came only by faith, never by description
which cannot save despite its comforts
as we might say: touch me here, 
put your hand where it hurts. Where
is it? What is the unimaginable source of it?
This transparent stain left on the air where was is.


Café Acute

                                      —for Louisa Chase

Having found your method, you scrape
for a softer alarm, dilute clarion orange
peach and the possible calm that fruit is.
But the season, without leverage,
spoils to a residue of images
parched, grounded, so you paint hands
clasped to hands of those you will never meet
even at the new café that smells of disinfectant.

My method is to scan for something to announce.
With the river as guide, I wait
while the excursion crosses
into the brick interior, angled for blindness.
The harbor, in another neighborhood patch, is
more storied, more gently inclined for arrival.
I see now fragmentary reds of sleeve
or scarf, some glad foreboding, and,
coiled before crashing,
the huge white wave you have bound to the inward sea.


Holding Air

The day’s accuracies, however feeble, are not
domestic although the line they draw
is encumbered, possibly even daunted
by that smudge I know is a river.
And now you know it as it slides
onto the sky, an unguent soothing the horizon.
You care also to know who you are.
Nothing so much as view but more than noise,
for the hum pertains to you, fanning the interior
and entering here through the window’s screen.
I had forgotten this attenuated lapse
between us, a sort of moat spun around us
as we collapse from day to day,
each of us ammunition for the other and 
for the night. The rope on the low roof
is strung like a hammock holding air,
doubling back on itself, limp,
catching a glimpse of sun better than the water.
Here it comes again, the trapped light
reined in, riding that rope from wall to wall.


As Far as the Eye Can See

Perhaps the weather has nothing to say
other than the simple duress of cause and effect
we muster into forbearance,
so little of which is left it takes on desire
as when reticence reaches its limit,
signals an embrace. The wind is favorable
even as it thrashes the stipulating tree
into panic, an urgency beyond its means,
reminding us of how much better it would be
to know less and so not impart meaning
to things left well enough alone.
This the weather never does
and is why all the turbulent paintings
only suggest the carriage of light
mattering everywhere, or the rain, stricken,
conversing with familiar distances of earth.
And now I wonder if intimacy is tonal,
some agreement of parts along the surface
weather, refusing to rest, narrates
with all the clarity words might articulate to us.


Like Attracts

A rag, I thought, and then, revived,
settled for fire
less than what matters but enough
to entail metaphor and therefore what I think
I am. For a while choice is infinite
until I pass under the boughs
where the cardinal, a rag in flight,
has alighted. A brief alliance takes place
against what we know to be the case:
your instinct for gambling, my threshold.

If the mood were to settle
and we were to live in this place,
this huge room where walls are trees
and the pool, also receptive, allows
glimpses, however brief, of endurance
(no more than a creature that swims
out of its depth) then these visitors
who tour their own sex would be less shrill
and the crimson flight of evening ours, and still.

Ann Lauterbach has published ten collections of poetry, most recently Spell (Penguin), as well as several chapbooks and collaborations with visual artists, including work with Ann Hamilton, Lucio Pozzi, and Ellen Phelan. She has written on art and poetics in relation to cultural value, notably in a book of essays, The Night Sky: Writings on the poetics of experience (Penguin). She has written catalogue essays on Cheyney Thompson and Taylor Davis, among others, and has been a visiting critic (sculpture) at Yale. Her 2009 volume, Or to Begin Again, was nominated for a National Book Award. Her poems have been translated into French and German. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, The New York State Foundation for the Arts, Ingram Merrill, and The John D. and Catherine C. MacArthur Foundation. Since 1990, she has served as Co-chair of Writing in the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts and, since 1997, David and Ruth Schwab Professor of Languages and Literature at Bard College. She has been a contributing editor to Conjunctions since 1984. A native New Yorker, she lives in Germantown, New York.