ST. VERONICA'S DAY
As sheer as a glimmer, all day a blue haze
has warped across the taut frame of the sky.
Like a shuttle wound fat with slubbed, undyed
silk, a single cloud wefts a fine gauze.
From the belfry of the tallest cedar the mockingbird
rehearses its hearsay--avian proverbs
and gossip retold as gospel, as song.
The sun intact as always goes down,
while over the other horizon rises
a day-moon, pale monoprint of sunlight--
delible, scarred with error, dim
behind the veil, the raveling finespun shimmer.
Shall I reel in my flimsy kite--in,
down, to the clay-stained sand, the reeds
fractured and splinted with ice, snow
still couched in the dunes' steep lees?
The tide is past slack and turning,
draining back to the Sound, and the swans,
tawdry, molting, are rounding the petty
Connecticut headland to graze the rumpled
chase at the Westbrook creek mouth.
Not sublime, serene, regal
but starved, cautious, hissing, jealous,
the dominant male arches his neck,
clacks his beak, and drives a rival
back to the sea, where the wind
fills its unfurling wings, and it sails
as if weightless and inviolate--apart.
What of those lustrous remembered swans--
frozen, pure, mute, aloof,
or wheeling in wild, clamorous flight?
Gone. Undo the crossed kite-sticks: go home.
(sculpture) western cedar, clay, sticks, bones, balls,
30" x 18" x 5" (1990)
more work by Martha Tabor
Too wide to cross on a whim, too green,
the river this morning tempts anyhow,
tempts like solitude, like excess.
On the far side beyond the blooms and chill
whirlwinds of mist off the water
the last of last night's shadows smudge
the bluffs and docks, the silted shore
to an indistinct charcoal gamut of darks
for all the world like a wilderness,
a woods one enters to return from changed.
CONTURBATIO, COGITATIO, INTERROGATIO, HUMILITATIO, MERITATIO: GHAZAL ON THE FIVE PETALS OF THE SALT SPRAY ROSE
Overturned on the tide, eyes pecked out, mouth and gills exposed in a clownish grin.
On the waves, the skate's flesh wings flutter.
Dog whelk, periwinkle, shark's eye shells--worldly repose in a whorled paraphrase:
Zero, zero, zero. Zero from the lowest body whorl on up the columella spindle of the spire.
Renounce your silence. Say succumb and I will lie down, your left hand under my head.
Say relinquish and I will cede you the city. Hurry, my love. Day is near.
Under the sway of the sovereign moon and the rain, unwilled, under water, the rugged beach rose
Blooms among the languid seaweed white, its fruit ripe, votive, sour.
How could I forget the pale green glamour of fireflies, my baby's shriek of pain,
The gaze of a stranger, the color of honey, hunger, desire, fear, the taste of salt on your shoulder?
After swanlight, shoal and shallows dispelled, the kingfisher hover, unsteady, and falls,
Ungainly, big-headed, rust-stained, she falls through the visible into a viscous, moted, absinthe green.
What is ours? All but a pinfeather, milkweed fluff, the lily's pollen shadow.
What is ours? All but the gnomen, the little thorned rose, anything like certainty.
Rain, flood, withdrawal. Surf-broken wharves thrown about like yarrow, like pick-up sticks:
Who wouldn't see a puzzle of shift and reliance, glyph and correspondence--from, to, because of, between.
As if a basalt sky might slide into place--dull, sarcophogal, inscribed with stars and a demotic gloss.
A Rosetta Stone to read the world by, a grammar book, a decoder key.
I had been dreaming of rescue, as if I'd been kidnapped and held for ransom.
As if rescue meant salvage from solitude, that wide, salt, scalding cold sea.
Jennifer Atkinson grew up in Connecticut, and was educated at Wesleyan University and the University of Iowa. She is the author of two books of poems, The Dogwood Tree and The Drowned City, which won the 2000 Morse Poetry Prize from Northeastern University Press. She teaches at George Mason University.
Published in Volume 3, Number 3, Summer 2002.