Peter Klappert

 

CHOKECHERRIES

Thirty feet from my windows,
an old kennel-wire fence
thickly grown over with honeysuckle,
poison ivy, and wild roses
just beginning to open
into the loose sort of droopy garlands
an aesthetic young farmer
might drape around Elsie
or Dobbin.

....................Where the wire ends
and the knotted up, spiraling vines
paw toward more light, six slim
grey trunks of chokecherry
feather into leaves and
clusters of blossoming fronds
that lift and fall with the breeze
like diminutive mare's tails
--each separate flower a rose,
each separate flower
three-eighths of an inch of
white disk, radiant
about a head of yellow-gold stamens.

Beyond the chokecherries
and a rutted road, beyond
locusts posts and barbed wire,
a deepening pasture lights up
with ranunculus, "little frogs"
for some reason, lights up
--in fact--with buttercups
as clouds move sunlight around.

And beyond them, veiled
and perhaps faintly blue
in the distance, broadly
lit by the same shifting light,
four rounded green mountains,
on the nearest and tallest of which
someone has built a white silo
and low barn--or more likely
some kind of radar station
that talks all night to darkness,
some kind of early warning,
perhaps an observatory.

.......................................I'm
just happy to stand here,
and hold my vote close,
white-blinded and stupidly
gazing into random galaxies
and minor constellations, starbursts
of yellow-haired stamens
in white corollas.

 

IMPATIENS

Balsaminaceae. Jewelweed, spotted touch-me-not, impatiens. Soft herbs with leafy, pale, translucent watery stems. Pendant flowers, orange-gold, spurred with nectar-bearing sacs. Fruit in swollen capsules that explode when touched.

I remember jewelweed in Connecticut,
the way we went to it and through it
to second-growth woodland, a place
where honey-suckle, mounding up for years,
had made three tents tall enough to stand in,
both of you, still salt-damp from swimming
and sweating a little in the breezeless heat.
A place of tenderness and mischief and
brotherly fooling, for boys in lonesome families
ready almost to set out on their own,
ready almost for exile, and learning
thereby to love each other's bodies.
.................................................Learning touch,
the secret rites of touch, an how you both
could feel the blush of pleasure, both
feel thigh and belly muscles tightening,
long muscles under skin divided
tan and deathly white, feel long muscles
hard and smooth beneath the sea-damp
fragrant tensing skin against each other's
both-still-salt-damp bodies, sweating a little,
smooth thigh and belly muscles taut and
tightening tensing in the breezeless
heat against each other's spray of
hot white dazzling
spray of
liquid jism hot against each other's
dazed and emptied
...............................laughing bodies self-
conscious again but laughing, happy
at the way you both absurd released burst
free escaped laughing as you drew the
quick-cooled cum across each other's salt-damp
tan-divided bodies smearing it
across the fragrant thigh and belly
muscles released relaxed now making it smear and
curlicue across the fragrant salt-damp naked bodies that you loved

 

 

 




Mansoora Hassan
Rumii
Series #2, 1998
mixed media on paper, 31.5" x 22"
see more of Mansoora Hassan's work

 

 


DOSTOEVSKI SAID MAN

1.
Dostoevski said man
is unhappy because he doesn't know

he is happy. What I am is
so real it dies on my tongue.

2.
If I loved you I
would say no if you loved

me you would not let me
say it.

3.
Everything you say is cruel
and bitter glory in my mouth.

4.
There is no disease for this cure,
I tell you what is

on my lips and what I know
it is too soon to know but

something is
falling from me like rain in sunlight.

 

CLOSING IN NEW HAVEN
from the team who gave us Migraine ('64) and Stomachache ('71)

At first the male lead
did the direction, but the cast
rewrote his lines at every run-through.
More recently the dancing duo
hired stand-ins and started
working up routines
for the great proviso scene.
The final act, though blocked
for twenty years, remains a problem
since it requires a division
of the props.
......................The final curtain
is going up on "The Separation"
after try-outs in a dozen countries
and walk-ons by the in-laws, the blacksheep
and two psychiatrists.
....................................Critics
have called the action
"better than vaudeville" "almost melodrama,"
but claim the plot still lacks
a denouement: for two and a half hours, no one
gives birth, dies, falls in love, or is cured
........of blindness.

 

THE COURTSHIP OF THE MORTICIANS

1.
Nothing human or inhuman revulses them.
After the formaldehyde, the Lano-Flo and powder,
after roses and chrysanthemums and gladioluses,
after a cozy soprano in the dolorous chapel or
folding chairs and accordion under elms and weeping cherries,
after tea and cakes and marmalade and little cookies
brought in upon a platter, after laying a few long greens
tenderly across the sexton's pink calluses, leaving Forest Lawn
and heading back to the glassy mortuary, they park
for almost an hour at the end of a dirt road
in an untamed part of the cemetery. Their eyes
reflect a minor entanglement of convulvuluses,
reflect bindweed and dodder and railroad vine
and the small red morning glories, which are closed now
because it is late afternoon. They sit close together
on the silver-grey banquette; they do not force
the moment to a crisis, but they sit close together
on the rayon-velvet banquette, in the front row
as it were, and hold each other's pulses.

2.
The courtship of the morticians
was not notably different,
was not better or worse, more
or less passionate, histrionic,
disingenuous, manipulative, tough
or tender than other courtships,
except in this one small regard only:
after wine and candlelight, after
cocktails and inflected chatter,
after the play, concert, or drive-in movie,
after wine and candlelight and violins,
after beer and kielbasa and accordions, they parked
in the cemetery with the other compulsives,
and held each other's pulses.

 

J'ACCUSE

.........................................I denounce those who are normal
for being so dull and so cruel, and
the authorities who encourage this. I denounce
those who believe with evangelical passion
for reminding us not of belief
but of passion.
.........................I cite volume twelve,
The Need to Punish, for volume one, The Duty
to Punish.
.................I denounce the vacancy.

Mutton for jackal, bishop for bludgeon, logician
for wart,
..............I denounce footpads, de Lesseps,
Curnonsky-le-grand, I denounce Danzig, Warsaw, Prague.
Evenhandedly,
with malice aforethought, based on the evidence,
bearing no grudges, in spite of the odds, considering
the consequence, without premeditation,
in nobody's pocket,
I denounce Haile Selassie for Finland.

..................................Day for night I blame, I blame
the weary for the rested. Arse upright
the same way round, I blame those chronically
in limbo for those
eternally under sedation
.

.....Exquisite tincture: I drink from your etched crystal.
.....Spiritual healer: here is your nameless tonic.
.....Coat tree: where is your empty nest?

................................................................Let us blame
Bismark for Napoleon, Mussolini for Julius Caesar.
Mended stocking, torn pyjama.

...................................................This sullen wine
I impugn, this sour waiter. I implicate
this baguette and that brioche.
I bring Hetty Green to the bar
and Martha Hanau to the bar, and I accuse them.
I bring Sigmund to the bar, I bring Karl and Carl
and Albert. I bring the fullness to the bar
and I accuse the fullness for this pod of earth
and for the vacancy,
for which I equally accuse the vacancy.
I cry out against the visible star
and recriminate the invisible ax.

...................................................Right hand
and left, I denounce them.
Second rib and first, I denounce them.
Pomegranate, serpent's skin,
microscope, paramecium,
busted bunion, broken shoe,
ironmonger,
toothache.

.................Eye for eye, palm for palm,
cuspid for cuspid
laughter for laughter for laughter
long forgotten comme tout le monde je les en accuse.

 

 

Peter Klappert's Chokecherries: New and Selected Poems, 1966-1999 was published by Orchises Press in Fall 2000. It includes poems from 4 of his 5 previous collections, along with 60 pages of "Scattering Carl," a work-in-progress. Klappert's Lugging Vegetables to Nantucket was selected by Stanley Kunitz for the Yale Series of Younger Poets; The Idiot Princess of the Last Dynasty appeared in the Knopf Poetry Series; and '52 Pick-Up: Scenes from THE CONSPIRACY, A Documentary was staged as a multi-media performance piece. A recipient of numerous grants and fellowships, Klappert lives in Washington, DC and teaches in the MFA Program at George Mason University.

Published in Volume 3, Number 1, Winter 2002.