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BIG RABBIT AT THE VERANDAH
Big rabbit at the verandah
fleecy-chested and fawn
nibbling clover, Easter rabbit
not much like the humble
face-scratched hordes we would shoot
clear-shack! pea-shack! with rifles,
leave straining, boil for the pigs
or let stink, underground mutton
in days when yellow cows
would crop to our house doors
because undermined pasture was collapsing
seawards. We buried toothed traps
because it was war and we were losing.
Only with the cushion-udder Holsteins
our land was hard put to support
did science send our enemy
to tremble blind on dung-stony hills.
Even dairy children
eased off shooting those for sport.
Grown sons restless to dress modern
compared town wages with Dad's will
and came back as grasses were healing.
Our old brindle war sickened new
settlers. Cow peas stopped being grown
and dogs gentled four-wheel-drive cattle
in through wire gates. Dairy roofs
dried to blood. After snuffed billions
Rabbit, you look edible and risen.
THE MUSSEL BOWL
Of adventures by palate
lately, my finest was a soup
in which mussels had been served
and, the shellfish being shared,
no one minded my lifting up
the bowl to play
a whispered in-continuo of sup
in that yacht club down the Melbourne bay.
AS A COPPER MONUMENT GREENING IN DEW
I’m in love with a woman who doesn’t love me also I don’t know why.
I earnestly inhabit my barstool daily mulling the crossword puzzle
in the USA Today, but she never strolls over all coy and jaunty to say,
Yes, love, that’s a gun in my pocket, but I’m also happy to see you.
She doesn’t wisecrack or tease, Hey, hombre, come give us a peek
under your burka. She goes on lounging at the other end of the saloon
with some other guy who’s unconscionably in love with her also,
some guy with his brand strategy refined, with a Bacardi
and wingtips, a svelte linen suit. He’s studied her demographics.
He’s ventured his capital. He streamlines his supply chain,
leverages his assets, and corners her markets, but for all the color
in the pie charts of his PowerPoint presentation, there isn’t any hint
of Kandinsky. For all the lunar blue in his klieg lights,
not a flicker of any celestial. Still, I’m eclipsed by him in love
with this woman who doesn’t love me also I don’t know why.
I shutter my windows and double-check the deadbolt,
though she never comes prowling. My passwords are twenty-letters long,
they contain three foreign numerals, two random characters,
but she doesn’t come hacking. If she shattered my patio door,
I wouldn’t holler. If she invaded through a gape in my gate,
I’d only invite her. I’d offer plantains and tobacco, petrol
and saffron, a samosa, a mimosa, but like a mistress in morning
she rushes always away, so what’s left is a sheepish disquiet
like waking into the ruined estate of a hangover. I’m in love
with a woman who doesn’t love me also. I don’t know why
aerial drones patrol all her borders, a barbed wall encloses
her Iowa of piety, her insular Dakotas. I’m in love with a woman
who doesn’t love me also I don’t know why, but my condition
is a dusky aftermath, is a stance of waning, is like the last act
in the life story of a wood fire, replete with a terrible sense
of warmth and mournfulness. I’m an ember caught in her wind shear.
I’m a paper lantern run aground on her breakwater. I’m a seedpod
ferried in the mouth of a seabird and spat on her shore. She’d prefer me
returned to whatever jungle blossom loosed me, her fences electric,
her guard dogs awake at their stations, her snipers alert in the birches.
She doesn’t need my queer number cluttering her phonebook. She doesn’t
want me crooning in her area code. She needs no brute approaching
her stoop with less than a dinar, less than a carnation, the sandstorm
of my body tumbling toward her, a rush of dust, a front of grit,
an erasure of her prim, her darkened horizon.
took back the mountains (“You didn’t scale them enough, quitters”)
but left the sea
(“Fuck the sea—
it’s all backwash and bitters”)
McCarthy, it’s Joe
Lloyd, it’s Harold
Hickory, dickory, Jesus,
The dark does what it pleases—
The squadrons roll out,
Somewhere: a shout,
Hickory, dickory, Jesus.
AMY CLAMPITT, WARY HUNTRESS
(for blesséd art)
in the very
of the West Village
Poet! Poet! burning bright
(Even though your words are shite)—
In your solipsistic sigh,
Note the echo: I I I.
Where the image? where the twist?
(Look: a plodding laundry list.)
Did you smile your work to see?
Would these poor lines please Emily?
Poet! Poet! growing dim,
Offer up a prayer to Him
Who gave us terror, grace, and Blake;
Then take a vow, for silence’ sake.
Hannah Baker Saltmarsh
“Love as strong as death, cruel as Sheol” Song of Solomon 8:6
Two bikes with the white baskets slain on the grass, a fleece blanket edged with novels
and berries at dusk. Slammed like this onto the blanket with her husband, their faces
in the folds of books, the pregnant woman remembers the wrestling before they had her
belly to protect. Here anarchists cradle guitars in cross-holds on the iron-cast bridge,
their skin-and-bones dogs sighing through jowls. The bridge where a kayak slides under,
the paddle flapping like hands wailing down red fire stairs. The sky bruises at nightfall,
blood orange crawls out, blots the blue terrain, and the expanse above reaches
for the torso-shaped bayou, collapses in darkness. Nothing wrong the first sign of sex
is a teenager’s bruised lip, a chewed ear, a sucked purple shoulder, a gnawed armpit,
bodies devoured in a daycare parking lot. Or the first sign he cares, a string of neurotic
text messages and missed calls. What of the S&M group on Craigslist pooling
their fetish-warmth over red velvet cupcakes at the café, discussing the latest in
vagina jewelry? A woman says she has to wait til her fiancé get back, but whittles away
at a cuffed guy whose eyes drop to the pavement. Who’s to say what’s kindling?
A senior with the last name Love we see in the evening news looks like those women
that come with the silver picture frame in the store. A picture of her in a halter dress
the colors of an Ocean City dawn against the backdrop of a helicopter waving a white ad,
then the high-tide spits up pearl necklaces. A picture of her whole body caving around her pug
on a beige couch in the family room. She was going to be the maid-of-honor in her sister’s
wedding. The sometime girlfriend of a lumber entrepreneur’s son. Both athletes from Maryland
and on the brink of graduating from an almost-Ivy. They held hands that day at Boylan Heights.
She hugged his family. The love-hate pendulum must have seemed normal, even his irate emails,
I should have killed you. Her teammates saw them. One time their relationship status read
It’s Complicated on Facebook so they warmed other mouths. He’d been drinking all day, mostly
with his father at the golf club. The night he breaks in, someone below feels the walls and voices
splitting. A roommate, in late, finds the body like a pile of dirty clothes
on top of the bed, wishes Love didn’t stay in that night, miss the party.
The defense says he was incapable, a drunk jock, a dud grenade, altogether.
You sleep with your musketoon, musket,
cutlass, and pistol, don’t die
in your sleep or while at sea during the hurricane,
the gash in the side of your ship,
then that rack of sea burials. You’ll die a lone casualty later.
You don’t work straight through the winter
on Freelove, but take breathers at Walker’s,
the Grape Lane shipyard,
the house with apprentices sleeping in the attic:
Mess Boy, Hammock Boy, Dictionary Person, Nascent
Director. Everyone calls the small collier ships
cats. They move faithfully as on a street
that keeps going forever but changes names
all the time, even changes directions as a one-way different ways
like a monogamous lover who surprises.
Your sea legs are wobbly chopsticks like Twiggy
who lies down on a moving elephant’s back
for a perfume ad, the scent on the magazine-
page insert. Her fur coat wraps once around her slinky arm,
then falls down the elephant’s flank: a weird version
of Cinderella’s pumpkin-carriage where she rides on the leafy top.
You want to help, that’s why you’re an armed understudy,
but you keep seeing yourself as a skinny boy
with long fingers, knocking the enormous silver-gilded
pineapple off the over-mantle many times
before growing the plumage necessary
to ruin everything else on that mantle
or find that someone else’s failure becomes yours.
You’re tired of being that guy.
You want to touch everything as the Ocean Investigator.
It’s like wanting to be Davy Crocket, Sherlock Holmes,
MacGyver, Shakespeare, or David Michael Baker Cowboy.
Like wanting to invent a timepiece you can hang up,
the brilliant long-case clock, a twenty-four hour
soothsayer to tell you the earth’s revolution
in an ordinary home like it was nothing.
But watch out before the older men comment
you’ll full of hot air, watch out when you go around
saying your one eye’s better than any other two.
On Lucky Bag day— the grab bag of dead men’s weapons
and ware—which is worse than the college-town vintage shop
slued with housedresses from nursing-home wardrobes,
because the shipmates kiss, stroke, inhale, wail over
their dead friend’s cloak, hand-spikes, spyglasses, cleavers,
still hawking away at this loot—
they eyed yours after the Minnie Ball,
bidding fair for your life
1200 paces away, whizzed through your heart.