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Three poems.

What the Teacher Learns

The student from Taiwan,

his father is a doctor in Taipei.

Wei has another way.

His secret life is a waterfall of sorrow.

In his poems, the exquisite misuse

of English; fog and fireflies,

often, a soldier in the mountains;

the body abandoned,

uniform rotting,

the rifle spent,

overgrown with milkweed,

the husks of the monarch

chrysalis, stunted,

swinging by a thread.

The ravished face,

lips drawn back,

the teeth small and

perfect, a line of

ants across them,

entering, the storehouse

of the skull. And the hands,

stretched out of the

braided sleeves,

the little moons of fingernails

like opals, the secret shrines

of jackdaws, who

pause and walk around

and turn their heads

sidewise, seeing the pale

moons, the bone sculpture,

the equivalent of conversation.


Every day a woman stands in her kitchen

and listens to a bird.

It is the voice of her dead husband,

only now he has wings and sings

to another female sitting on a nest.

Inaccurate Incarnation is only

a twin maze on empty glass.

Meat is the measure.

But every day Belshazzar

leaves strange writings on the windows.

Every night passes grief stricken, weeping.

Incarnation is an empty glass.

Meat is the measure.

But every day Belshazzar

makes strange markings in the dust.

Every night her bed sinks into the earth.

Every day she cooks and eats

and then, washes the dirty dishes.

The woman wishes it could be otherwise.

She would like to be a bird;

for her kingdom to perish;

for the house to fall down.


Cylinder sacks of water filling the oceans,

endless bullets of water,

skins full of water rolling and tumbling

as we came together.

As though light broke us apart.

As though light came with the rubble of words,

though we die among the husks of remembering.

It is as we knew it would be

in the echoes of endless terminals,

in the slow scaled guises of ourselves

when we came together in the envelopes of ourselves,

the bare shadow, the breath of words invisible;

as slight errors repeating themselves;

as degradation passes like madness through a crowd.

It was not ordained.

It was one drop of salt water against another.

RUTH STONE received the National Book Critics Circle Award in 2000 for her book, Ordinary Words. Her new collection, In the Next Glaxy, will be published in the fall of 2001 by Copper Canyon Press. She lives on a mountain in Vermont.
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Publication:The American Poetry Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Jul 1, 2001
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