Conjunctions:21 The Credos Issue

Seven Poems
To Word

Seven times I told you
and seven times you asked me what. 

The cold makes you feel
the edge of your body
in a photograph. 

A glove of no. 

Your tongue split and tied. 

If you split a crow’s tongue
he can speak

the repeated name

the seven miles without water
that has no name. 

so you can stay. 

You have to split it
when they’re young
when language seems natural. 


To Circumferate

The park circled, circling
the city you could walk
it would take a week
a non-linear line to arrive. 
It took a very lonely man
to realize that the planets
did not, do not travel in perfect
circles. The park surrounds
the city and is surrounded
by the city. With a careful
adjustment of eye there are
no buildings. A city of trees
and hedges with the sun at one
focus, enormous hedges, a 
sun a city long and a spin
in which no object spun, spins. 



The animals honed from stone—
like us they live on air
but they don’t mind it here, thin
ice over the moving river. 
In fact any movement at all
and a pale number shudders
into life. 

There are animals that emerge
from bright spots on the skin
or in the eye; 
they stand blinking in the raw light
and you reach over and lay your hand
on the back of one. 

The river now stopped like a snapshot
trembles in the sun. 
From the window of the train
between Vladivostock and Moscow
you look out on snow upon 
snow and know as if by name
every thing that comes to life out there. 


To Irrevoke

thing but yet you tried
and one tries. 

The shell in the hand
spirals into the bone
when the hand is clenched
and none, no one

We stood on the shore
unwinding. Skin and bone
demand the shelter of a storm

or die of transparency, 
a mother-of-pearl lampshade
on the table, a paperweight
holding down the tongues. 


Ghazal of the Empty Thing

Her brows crowded together
An unbroken line. 

The army advancing
A mile wide

And then her chest cavity collapsed. 
They were carrying flags. 

Wind occupied the house. 
Red flags. 

And they became it
And carried them lightly. 


To Fall

In such a sphere. No
light no stone. We
rush toward. Touch
and burn. If the world is round. 
No cell is ever more than one cell away
from a supply of blood. Bright
red air. A permanent wind

would cease to be startling
in a year or two. 


To Carry On

Carry was the operative word
and no object survived it. 
She stood at the window
holding a letter and the painter
said “Almost,” “Turn a little to the left” 
and “Stop right there.” 
Don’t move. The light is
perfect. The traffic
counteracts memory and this
will help us greatly in our research. 
We’re checking the role of sound
in emotional evolution. The phone
rang and she started
violently because she had begun
to believe that what she saw
out the window was the whole world. 

Cole Swensen's latest books include a collection of poetry, Art in Time (Nightboat Books), and a volume of critical essays, Noise that Stays Noise (University of Michigan Press). She has won the Iowa Poetry Prize, the SF State Poetry Center Book Award, and the National Poetry Series and has been a finalist for the National Book Award. Also a translator, she divides her time between Paris and Providence, Rhode Island.