SOME MAN MADE THIS BRIDGE
At this rate, the woman will never cross
the bridge. The fog, dense as hope, could ease her
heart from her chest and send her reeling. Blind
water would rise to study her body,
her dark hair rippling, her cheeks a moist shade
of cut pear. She’s ripe with trembling, but has
forgotten which way she should go. She should
have turned around, she thinks – each breath a cloud
of unknowing. The fog tucks her in—she
with no sense at all of its genius or of taking the fall.
OK WE’LL CALL IT A VESSEL
Let’s call the heart a stone. No
we’ve used up heart and stone . . .
So vessel it is and it breaks. And
it sorries. It moon it bale. Hey, says
vessel, I want out want stop. Want
the endless nothing and everything
too. Vessel is too hard. Is multiple.
And laden, defers to the chain of
mentally and bodily -- pipes all over
the ark are breaking. Vessel in your
sealed vessel. Now what will you do?
I DID NOT KNOW IT HAD COME TO BE SO LATE
Unmerciful the woods beyond the lawns where
narrative constructs and continues
(a queer permission) and you thrown over sorrow’s
shoulder like a satchel or like salt. The sky
is hovering like a plateful of sky. The sea
disappears. Sublimed. And here I am again,
sackful of spirit and shit, suspended in the fact
of failing again. Again, nothing but what I am.
It has come that I am broken (the tongue
is a dissembler, is a sophist). I see now
what love might be -- care has come to un-
pick my locks (language, language, clarity
is overrated; the tongue is tied to itself).
I have not earned the right (my love offers
the unspeakable) (my love offers the un-
imaginable) but I take it. You take it.
Quietus and all blessings thereof. And rest
(the tongue flails, bedsheet of desire). School
of the wholly, school of the not at all: this moon’s
just a hole in the sky. Aperture, garden of stars,
some pale disorder (spiritous) (rag of elements,
coating of dust). Everlasting. (Threadbare.)
It is as simple as this: no thing surrendered
in the woods last night. Everything surrenders.
And sometimes there may be good reason for such quaint perfidy –
a molar cracking, a jawbone wrestled from its pinion and groove,
the daily grounds for misery sticking in your pipes, one more day
of quotidian rustle, of the how-it-must-be-at-this-juncture despite
you with your hands in the mean one’s fur, the air around you
senescence-heavy and perfumed with boiled fish. All good things
are accidents: the hook at the end of your personal crook, the bleat
of the lambish thing inside you is one more good dark. Read the books!
See? All our shapings coincide. The beautiful equation. In our drowse
we turn and turn three times to press down the bed. Then two times
more for our bum luck. The seven vertebrae in our necks relax, our
impossible thumbs curl as if around something, and there are six feet,
as I understand it, in the grave. Numbers cause such history. If you can
count, it’s already past. (And oh! I seem, all over again, to have taken
two of some I did not mean to take at all. Such gall and lack of care. And
what had I imagined I would own with them? A heightened sense of having?
No. Not having but of wanting so instilled that even absent-mindedness
is riddled with a need -- until having becomes burdensome and the thrill
is in the leaving some behind. How are such strong needs met? By counting
heads? By calling out our names?) All prophecy is luck or sense. Two beats
more than you candance to. (Go bet on it.) Allluck is dumb. All sight is
always skewed. Wag and Scoundrel, Piss and Ant are the names you know
you know. Listen: all day you count the pennies in your brain,loose change.
Loose cannon. Loose ends, lost dog. Old Ninny, Fusspot, Layabout, Bastard,
Partaker-of-Bread. What say you Thumb-sucker, Bitch-in-Heat? Say this,
poor Outlaw, Bayer-in-the-Night: don’t bargain for history or naming. Don’t
count on what you thought you thought or what you think you have to say.
INTENSITY FOR BEGINNERS
The fox is as red as the dog is white and
my friend Mary cuts the balls on sheep,
I swear. The words should be as simple
as the mind is not. In tent cities. For ex-
ample: disjunction of the beaten heart, enough
sparrows for a quorum, and at least one
time in another country a young boy
was chained inside a grain bin. I heard
this. Don’t explain. But go on. The poet
John Kinsella was struck by lightning
twice, he swears. He was a child then. I
believe him. Ten pests in a teak cup. The art
is a homely punter. Now a faggot of small
hearts is set afire – the shadows that would
throw! Pray for the divided hooves of deer,
for the thick, stinking fur of bears. For unseating
the heart of loneliness. For compost. And
shit in deep mounds. Pray for the tufts of titmice.
For the bull running both ways at once. For
magnitude. Except for every thing, we’re
interchangeable: there was no dog there,
but a shadow of that dog in the deeper shade.
SOME REASONS BEHIND THE REASON FOR WHAT I DID
--(One kind word. The stone in the chest breaks open; its small snake escapes for a while)
~~There should be grace throughout the compound
--(Of the three snakes only two are symbols)
~~Between the bodies and the heat rising
--(It was terrible and accurate)
~~Ghosts in the bedpost / between the glass panes
--(A sound like a bee in a box—strained through the teeth of a god)
~~Spirit Lake: was not rising
--(Your mind manifest is not your mind; we find one another like that)
~~A young man’s aura
--(This was a beautiful leaf from the snake-tree—the shape of a widening grief)
~~Being measured for the stone
--(Anything you see now has already happened)
~~We are not the first of anything No
--(The self was less concentric than we thought)
~~Let me in: I would say I’m sorry
--(She is not an ornamental child)
--(There was an aesthetic inversion)
~~Tell the man to tell the man Please if you can
--(You were sudden with desire and reason both)
~~I only heard the music once
--(There was the burst dam of light and a river of seeing)
~~Men still dreaming of waves
--(You are gathered in another language altogether)
~~You hate being snake on the ground
--(snake in a tree: and the one on fire)
~~on the ground in a tree and on fire the water still not rising
Previously unpublished poems. Upon further publication, please credit first publication as IthacaLit.
Renée Ashley is the author of four volumes of poetry (Salt -- Brittingham Prize in Poetry, Univ. of Wisconsin Press; The Various Reasons of Light; The Revisionist’s Dream; and Basic Heart -- X. J. Kennedy Poetry Prize, Texas Review Press) as well as two chapbooks and a novel, Someplace Like This.