On an upper story, someone is dying.
On this lower floor, I am revising.
Throw the dead ones out. They rise.
The loved ones retire. They cry.
Isotopes, pockets, dragonflies, bread:
How can I indemnify the dead, long gone on my aperitifs?
They have brought nothing but grief.
Set it off on the left, oh, set it off on the right, now, set it off.
Though the circle's closed and the sacrament is had, lo, set it off.
The collars of reprieve, the pendulous aggrieved, do sadden now.
Once the deed's replayed and merriment displayed, they sadden, how.
Flowers on the left, oh, flowers on the right, now, bow you down.
Though the circle's rent and the birthday bottle's spent, they bow down.
It is my work that waits, not yours.
It is my clock that ticks, not hers.
I have reason to undertake an expiry report.
The dead will die nigh, nonetheless.
August. The beat of the firefly
in its bleep of light
across the dark lawn.
An indigent woman stares and sips.
There was a woman,
She was dying.
When I denied her,
I was lying.
Her face it was a
That hovered o'er
That blighted spirit
Remove what is of consequence--the nine yards whole: the homonym,
Beneath the skull the tender tent of clavicle prone,
The diffidence, the sailor's knot, the sickle cell, the humanate,
The bone that breaks, the outer clotted artery she bent.
'Night. 'Night. A lawn that exhales insects, grass. A
Chute in which the elevator
Shudders up. A wave, a kiss, a token
Spliff. Another time, it was, when you were here &
Harping on our pockets' pilling,
Wary. Receive me though I have arrears
To each lector at the lectionary.
Hand-Me-Downs: The Movies
Power schmauer. The trees glinting their crystal boughs beyond
Wave on, unconcerned at the perilous act the speaker and her cronies consider.
A tricolor wager hits the felt, its paper rustling, its androgynous scent stirring
The air of its daring. The tuxes demur. Flutter the molls. The runner stands
Clean out of the way as the goose V en route to Bahamian skies breaks
And wheels in the skylight. Dumb schmo. In the days when they made films,
Real movies, like with a camera store employee charged in a theft and then
Slaughtering, "butchering," the old woman--or with the lug discovering
His date is black via her hipster brother--or with the Engels recitation beside
A heap of junk, back then, yea, we cut some real corners. Cold Mountain's
Incline rolls rocks big as words; Maya; a bloom; and a forehead. A cold
Bucket dipper in a cold high stream. Juncos light on the air conditioner
Shell of the room where the molls are powdering. How can gills really propel
Them past a pate or two holding forth at the rum punch? His interjected Gills?
Propel? stole the thunder. The trees stirring their sharp twigs ice up in the spot,
Like fingers on currency, or chips. In the 70s, power counted for rocks--
For bread--strewn on the walk, from the embankment the swooping of birds.
Scrims of six-legged creatures blew out behind poems. Saucered, the tea,
Gunpowder, sloshes, as the girl, pie-eyed, peppers her father with kisses
Until Mabel in the pumpkin shell cries through Harrod's though louder be
The lift chimes overdubbed. Red poppies had dibs--although, as we say,
Metaphorically." The gowns glinting in front of the breakfront move
Characteristically. Gowns, they should. Can't someone explain to her
The sparkling allure of the wager and the winning streak? On your mark, go.
SUSAN WHEELER'S first collection of poetry, Bag 'o' Diamonds, published in 1993 by the University of Georgia Press, received the Norma Farber First Book Award of the Poetry Society of America. Her second, Smokes, was published by Four Way Books in 1998. She is on the core faculty of the MFA program at The New School for Social Research.