Daniel Gutstein



Shadow in the sun's
red lengthening still, what

grey ink his hand
can throw, she'd given

him a noisemaker unrolls
like a sour tongue

in the sun's red,
lengthening still the grey

ink of his blurry
hand, the sour note

of the unrolled tongue
long as his breath

can hold it, she'd
given him shadow, long

as his breath can
throw the blurry note.


Birdshadows bank
in bright
shade, wing
of upless
daffodil, no
fell brilliance
can dull
sought-seek, no
cold inkpools.


Where the wind fell upon an intersection
snow the ash of a dead fire
and sky as slushy as the sidewalk
a bus slouched beneath the umbrella of an early lamp
bookshops and storefront esquire
and the cold chandeliers of public kitchens
characters or rather characters about
the uplessness of snow
tophats in silhouette
then an artificial hand out a homemade mitten
cigarettes beside the gray fireworks of grand trees
or cigarettes like freckles in the middle distance
of a white park
dusk an old bruise
and areas as quiet as the modest stroke of the river
crossing, then arch of the crossing
dark hall of the auditorium
but bright marquee
a pawnshop simply dwelled behind its irons
then a woman's shape loitering beside
the shape of a woman's wet boots and runny nose
where the wind fell upon an intersection
the snow rolled like a great wheel
bits of night and bits of water
and brights



Can't stop my right moving same as my left
nothing much happens to one side anyway
--I'd have to pause and think
which way I'd like to go
and then only glimpses of what might be there
having to shake on my word
or press my heart to cornerstone
--Thought I lost someone I cared for
if I counted five names
I counted ten
didn't stop long enough to look over-shoulder
(if that's where you lose someone)
--Can't say why I'm not facing a person
who's folding arms to prevent an embrace
my walker's leg and my brooding thumb
my good eye and my dumb ear
at odds with the narrows of a city sidewalk
--Thought I lost someone I cared for
the sun was a stern brass pupil
the moon a cracked white plate
the young morning a world of light and absence
come to me I said
where are you where are you
a thrash of long black hair across my lips
--Can't stop my right moving same as my left
wish I could see you
(bright red lips and spinning away)
wish I could hear the sweet word of my name



City is express for union
the way he "took his burden for a stroll"
or the cloud deck warm and orange.
After noon the slow sound unspools
and at night cymbals clatter a building to pulp.
The horizon will always suggest an airplane
the airplane a glittering medallion
and the glitter a fine glassy remainder.
Late dewy green as the inverse of drought
or the converse of "which old chitchat"
beside the picture window.
He took a coffee or he nearly understood
the silhouette of this or that reversal.
Where the options were to linger maladroitly
or malinger adroitly he put his foot on the footrail.
The pedestrians true had a certain to and fro
but otherwise failed to shape.
If failure is express for disjoint and emptiness.
"Toward the other unlike" thus
"within its null properties."
The construction crew cut brick with a radial saw
and their macadam chatter carried oh so high.
List and gulls and the cloud deck burning
warm and orange in the August sun.
The purpose of the gist of
the whole of the transfinite.
He thought: "I hate spending a lot of time
in graveyards." He thought: "We're all
gonna spend a lot of time in graveyards."



"The very structure of it," said Warren, "the very idea. Now, think.
Rhyme--yes. Meter--yes. The number of lines--yes, yes, yes--"
he said, as I got it, it seemed, an eight and a six, an eight and two less,
the sestet as an octave minus two. We smiled a moment, then drank
down our drafts, and more, and more after those. The dull clinks
our glasses left on the table, in toast, until we slurred--"less and loss,
lesson lost." We gave up laughing. Warren went to pay, then to piss.
Then I thought: two lines gone--the genius of the sonnet--in a blink.

We would never meet again. I would sit at our table and conjure
the very structure of it, the very idea. Meter--yes, yes, and rhyme.
The sestet as an octave minus two--or, what can disappear. I mull
the table's quiet grain, my draft (a couple sips short), and I figure
how the loss of a person grows beyond form, magnitude, and time.
How there used to be two glasses rising and falling. Now, the lull--



Daniel Gutstein's poems and fiction have appeared in a number of publications, including Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, TriQuarterly, The American Scholar, New Orleans Review, Fiction, and The Penguin Book of the Sonnet. A short poem of his was featured in the Moving Words Series on buses in Northern Virginia in summer 2003 and he was recently awarded a grant in playwriting from the Maryland State Arts Council, and a fellowship in literature from the Arts and Humanities Council of Montgomery County, MD. He teaches creative writing and works with students who have disabilities, both at George Washington University. He also is Associate Editor of the literary journal StoryQuarterly.

Published in Volume 5, Number 1, Winter 2004.


Read more by this author:
Gutstein's Tribute to Dudley Randall: The Memorial Issue
Dan Gutstein on Rod Smith: The Profiles Issue