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 from Peripheries issue 6

 

 

 

you had me on the hillside


of Clos de la Croix de Pierre in Burgundy


even though we have never


been there. You had me contemplating


the riddles of birds: What looks open


and invites you in but is something you can


never enter? You even had me laughing


at the jokes birds make, like the one


about the Northern Flicker that believes


the cup tattooed on his chest is half


full, when it’s really half empty. You had me

at Andrei Rublev’s grave, which no one


can find, although the bells keep


ringing anyway. Sitting next to you


on the bed before you left, you had me


sitting before the road and you had me inside


you leaving Venice, chanting with the novices


in the monastery of Grande Chartreuse: Tu m’as


séduit, o Seigneur, et moi, je me suis laissé


séduire, O Lord you have seduced


me, and I let myself


be seduced.

00:00 / 01:17

Angie Estes is the author of six books of poems, most recently Parole. Her previous book, Enchantée, won the 2015 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Prize and the Audre Lorde Prize for Lesbian Poets, and Tryst was selected as one of two finalists for the 2010 Pulitzer Prize. Her seventh book is forthcoming from Unbound Edition Press. A collection of essays devoted to Estes’s work appears in the University of Michigan Press "Under Discussion" series: The Allure of Grammar: The Glamour of Angie Estes’s Poetry.

Equinox/The Seasons Pass


The Great Hall of the People—
It could be anything from a bubble
Of titanium to a duck egg
To a sandpiper. The dome
was the reflective egg of the people,
where the outsider could lay claim
to his originary, and they could
Put ladders up along side it, brush it
With seedpods, wandering in the garden
with self-abandon, with inadvertence,
Women hiding there in giant flowers,
Rain falling on the carbonized red stones
Everybody could be themselves completely
Once they asked themselves what that was,
what they were, leafy outcasts among beehives,
And rain slid off ivy toward beautiful earth
Where the air we breathe has been breathed by all others
And for that is the purer; no one coerced
Into anything, no one trying to be anything,
A falconer or sandman, diplomat,
In full bloom like a desert succulent,
O person, for that is what you are—

As the well-arranged kite is able to glide
gracefully up—the house kite or the Malay kite,
the box, the dragon, or the one called Lilac
of Persia—up to its steady position
owing to its symmetry, its leaves turned up
like a hat brim, the variable stars
fluctuate in brightness.
On Linden Terrace people are sharing the ritual.
It’s name? Still to come. Fall begins,
The sun crosses the equator, the hours
Of day and night are approximately equal lengths
all over the earth. On the last Sunday
In October, we fall back. The nights are longer now,
We have passed the month of sapphire and lapis
Lazuli—the months of resolve—and we are in
The tourmaline and Opal month, ashine
With hope, and truth. Topaz November lies
Ahead. But so does the Amethyst month,
Then thirty-one days of Jasper, Bloodstone,
Quartzite webbed with rain. Then,
The Diamond Month, April, when we are faceted,
There is a gentle acceleration. But for now,
The constellations of autumn appear,
We are fixated on all the questions
That are implied but seem to demand
Unequivocal answers, until, to our relief,
The scattering of leaves seems to be a response
That is sufficient, and we are released
From obligation that made us shrink
With withering apprehension. The tide turns,
And just as things were looking bad for all,
The unexpected guests arrive, we are amidst
Food and wine, friendship, and as you allow them in,

Through the open door you can see the emergence
Of a 19th century crystal palace, emerging
From behind the cliffs. The children
Are coaxed to sleep by the mother
who tells them, “Dolls need a rest too,
need peace to grow into grownups.
And don’t you worry, children,
For all sleeping dolls come back from the dead.”

Confluence

The truth is, you are a listener—a secret listener.
While beclouded and dark, the ball of crystal
Tells the times by clearing for just a moment,
Gleaming with brilliance, then darkening yet again,
Returning to its normal state. All your present
And future, all that you are now, is hidden
From easy perception, like piles of hay
They have moved out of reach of the destructive wind.
It is just the beginning, as always. And
As always, we search for it in divination:
In divination by flight of birds, in divination
By grass covering letters traced upon the ground;
By winds, by a balanced hatchet, by arrows,
By herbs, by the rising of smoke, by the floating
Egg pointing north; to tell the future by the hand,
By dice, by a balanced sieve, by a spirit seen
In a magical lens; to tell it…to tell it by the laugh,
By the position of the stars at birth; by dots
Made on paper at random; by walking in a circle
Or by fish, by precious stones, by meteors,
By letters forming your secret name; by dreams;
By nails reflected in the sun’s rays; tell it

By fountains, by pebbles, by pebbles drawn
From a heap, by ghosts and sacrificial fire,
By the sea and the seashell, by passages
In a book, or by departed spirits; by the departed
Spirits of those you loved.


It is for you that dawn breaks over the blue hills
With their terraced fields, to nearly touch the dark green
Water of the canal. It is to interpret the writing
On the walls of a room that you awaken
And leave off dreaming. Where the raindrops
grow more beautiful
With your dawning awareness of the sounds
They make; and like them, you are planning
To disappear, to vanish completely, to lose
Identity, irrevocably, and then be part
Of a great dispersion, just one tile in the mosaic.
And there is no message on the mildewed wall,
It’s just how light falls on it, the green rain-light.
Did you choose this place, this path, during
Those moments when you were half awake?
And this split in time, momentary, you tenaciously
Held to, even adopted as a code of living.
And now, the thunder is telepathic, and seems
To read—or feel—your deepest thoughts,
And responds in the only way it can, and you
Receive its gift through the mind and the mind alone.
You feel the cold freshness of the room
In which this work—your work—is done.
There are no outside distractions. The heavy
Ticking of the grandfather clock, covered
In a layer of green moss, is ticking.

 

But the earth, so near to man, so varied
And manifold, is not understood; it is barely
Apprehended as an entity. But from her
Come the life-giving streams that wander the land,
Dear as a storage of opals, flux-grown like rubies;
One gathers that a destination lies somewhere
In the distance, past rank grass and cooling towers,
Mountains under red skies, and a flowering
Of curiosity flowers in you, and you can come
As you are, or as you always have been,
As you will be much later at some unforeseeable
hour. There was always the danger, felt
Or apprehended by your heart, that what
Awaits you is a slow petrification, a turning
Of your body slowly to an ancient green stone—
But could it be that what lies on the other side
Of that mountain is a group of emissaries sent to greet you,
And they are bringing gifts, they are the “possible
People”, the ones in a shadow life lived adjacent
To yours, others on the margins? It is a delegation
Welcoming you.

A guy was walking down the street
Past Hennepin on Facet and stumbled
Over something: it was one of those big
Diamonds that people drop and just leave
Lying in the street. This was a big one:
About the size of a very large cat
Or an anvil or an air conditioning unit
For an apartment complex. So you just
Keep walking into the hills where it seems
That all might be well if left the way
You found it. And you could see

Your favorite star shining like a greeting.


To the lapidary, Rigel is very beautiful,
And man and star are equally diligent.
People are coming out of a building
Like a stream of ants. One stops
To pick up a twig with a single dry leaf
Of eucalyptus hanging from it. Others
Just hurry onward with perfect equanimity.
What are they doing? Ask the man
Who’s in the insect business…he’ll tell you.
But you might need to sit on a tree stump
And smoke a cigar with him as he tells you
The story of how he fell in love—it’s clear
He’s talking about a girl now, not fire-ants.
He claims he needs to “start from the beginning”:
Always a bad sign. So you leave him there,
Looking a little puzzled, then forlorn, shaking
His head, and walk from the enchanted wood
Into the town, where some kind of procession
Is being planned.

And who am I? The rains are falling now
And a time of rest has come. Time is passed
In feasting and enjoyment; wine is brought out;
One steps out into the courtyard to smoke
A cigarette, clouds still streak the sky,
And all seems just fine. Slowly the stars
Come out, one by one, in their usual order.
There are barely any lights on in the town
And in the surrounding hills and valleys,
The night market has not opened yet,
So the Milky Way can be seen, and it is

Wonderful. When he goes back inside,
The men and women are pairing up and going off
To bed: Damien and Irene; Orange and Ignacio; Sky
And someone whose name means “summer;”
Jia and that other girl named Jia; and then,
Finally, Dorothea and the girl known only
As “Thirty-Nine.” It’s time for love,
Or games, or whatever, or sleep, or whatever,
“You do you,” as they say, “you only live once,”
Say others, which is true, but what one does
With that information is still to be seen….
And the shadow pyramids stand on the outskirts
Of a shadow city, on a shadow planet.
And its government does its dark work
With a sullen diligence.

… 


I want to tell you something that seems true…
But in truth, I don’t know yet.
But I will end by divulging the secrets
Of another kind—the secrets
Of magic, of the ten kinds
Practiced by the prestidigitator:
He asks you for some object,
Some thing of value to you.
And takes it from you: and then—
Vanishing—he makes the thing disappear.
Transposition—he makes the thing
you love change places with another;
Penetration: he passes something through
The object, but it is not harmed;
Transformation: the object you love is changed

into something else, a diamond, or
a bird’s egg, or a shadow; or something
you do not recognize as yours;
Production: the object you love appears instantly
from thin air;
Escape: the object of your love breaks free
from your grasp;
Prediction: the magician predicts
what will someday become of the beloved,
for all things must pass;
Transportation: your beloved travels
from one place to another, far away;
Restoration: she who you love is destroyed
and somehow made whole again;
Levitation: your beloved defies gravity;
she displays impossible lightness;
she is borne aloft.

This was expressed very neatly
By Dr. Harlow Shapely
In his book Of Stars and Men,
In which he tells us much that is wise
About the city and the dream,
The explosion, the explosion of color,
The mixture of nitrogen, star shine,
And water which, with other atoms,
In the right conditions, will everywhere
Produce animals just like ours
As in Precambrian times, when Insect X
Or Green Lizard Y or Star Fish B
Or a profusion of flowering plants
All had queens like bee-swarms,
And when Rosa was given a green book

Which was placed under a bright red light,
Rosa said the book was blue…
And as she rested her hands on the book,
The light was suddenly switched off,
And she cried, “The book has changed
From blue to green!”


We walked to the pier, all of us in a group.
The children followed close behind, then would
At times rush ahead.
Then we would all feel ourselves in the sun.
The cat waited there at the door,
Its eyes boring into it
As if it would magically swing open.
The sun was at the other end of the earth
And the darkness was frank and simple.
It just revealed everything but itself.

Geoffrey Nutter is the author of Christopher Sunset, The Rose of January, and Giant Moth Perishes, among other books. He teaches at NYU and Queens College in New York City and runs the Wallson Glass Poetry Seminars.

 from Peripheries issue 6

00:00 / 05:11

Hard to stand what hasn’t
worked, what hasn’t
taken shape, all the unsteady
need. I walked over
a steel bridge with you,
which took a long while, feeling
only content. There were streetlights
hazing over the dusk, rain
falling through trees. I did
know that you were living
in the aftermath of great
loss. But I believed the heaviness
would soften, even if
it never ends.

 

 

 

There are hours when
each of us feels we have
not once been at home.
I can imagine the old roads
in Iowa, where I was born,
the woolen wet prairie heat.
Today I have nothing to
say. A new kind of ruin
entered my life
when you showed me it was
possible to never again
try to speak.

I am writing this on a Saturday.
I dislike tasks that must be
endlessly repeated, like
cleaning the sink. There
must be a few people who
delight in such things
and I’ve found it’s possible
to learn someone else’s joy
just by watching. I want
to apprentice myself to exceptional
work. I admire the grass
that persists through thick
bolts of cement, and the air
made by trees. The sleep
we crave, and require.

Don’t be coy—you had convictions.
You had a fierce sense of
what you would and wouldn’t
do. I asked a hundred questions
and still you couldn’t explain
the hospital, the rosebush, the days,
gliding as they were or slowly flashing—
the way we hold on to each other
wanting nothing but bliss—pure,
unspoken, with no need to talk
or strive or understand,
no need for poetry—just a silence,
broad and constant, in which,
occasionally, winds shift or stars fall.

Most of the time I hardly know
what to believe in, beyond
the fragile hinge of each night,
or the secret love people
harbor for each other,
the real will to help. You were
almost there, pensive, tapping
at the screen door. Damage
is effortless. You still come and go.

You pushed off into day
and walked the long streets to work.
The light down the avenue
was beautiful, but it was also a sorrow.
Time to find you. Time to wrap you
into me and buoy you. Years have now
passed. I don’t think
there’s a way to account
for my graceless exit, the crushing
wall of your silence. I love mornings,
I love the whole hour after it’s rained,
and how that simply
passes. Like the sky,
which neither leaves nor arrives.

Maybe you scowl, convince yourself
it was a place that didn’t
exist. It existed. It was not
a distraction or passing
thought: there were blocks
in this city we walked, books
we held out to each other, long
languorous days. A ceiling fan
clicking over the bed.
There is an alphabet
where a tree is a clockhand,
a tunnel a pause,
where night feathers out
to the edge of the suburbs, beyond
the blown ditches and litter, and touches
the dawn, which is kind,
before it even begins.

Joanna Klink is the author of five books of poetry, most recently The Nightfields. She has received awards and fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Trust of Amy Lowell, and the Guggenheim Foundation. She teaches at the Michener Center for Writers in Austin, Texas.

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