Featured Poet S.D. Lishan

Stuart Lishan

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 Body Tapestries
Winner of the 2005
Orphic Prize




Real Language  
I ascertain... by fitting to metrical arrangement a selection
            of... real language ..., that sort of pleasure..., which a poet may rationally
            endeavor to impart.   
William Wordsworth

"Bad day for stock market investors a-
gain." No gain, again," said with twinged
grin by CNN newshead. Then, "Battered Nasdaq,"
like it was catfish rolled in flour.
Meanwhile, "Pain hangs wetly, dripping
                        from the chrysanthemum of morning,"
            poet writes, journaling her daily head lines.
Say it. "chrysanthemum..., " "battered...."          
Say "Thirsty. For your companionship."
            As in comfort. As in bread.
            As on a ship of comfort and bread.
A river rises; leaves bulge; cicadas
fuck in ambrosial twilight. The sp-
heres of touch. Flesh.

Whatever. Just,
"I was born to bask in you,
my love," is all I meant  to say.                                    
Say, "Lush lucent growth.
Sheen tumble love. Sate me,
plucked serenity's longing."
"Say it with a boned, honed-hosed down line,"
(says the writing work-chop teacher authoritatively)      
Say it. “Papa Doc's body guards. Well-
built Haitian, punch-men, foll-
owers of the ancient trade of henchmen.”
                  "Fine example of repression
in the service of a power elite
sponsored by multinational
[those corpse orations] who demand
a stable 
[nice double entendre there]
supply of cheap, controllable labor ..."
"Peace is a sum of money without a cry."
"A ship of comfort and of bread."
Which do you say? To whom?
                                    As in hum.
                                    As in Home.
Adjectives poke their ashy heads.
Rinds of wind splash through tents
of tenses. The mean of meant. One's memories,
one's orreries  ("that collection of voices
            which determines the path,
            the orbit , the identity
            of comet Hale-Bopp bop of 'self'" ).
            Say it from the spoke to the hub.
            The speak to the rub.
            The honey to her bub.
            "The snowfall on this page."
            "Thirsty. For your companionship."
Twilight. Highway 23. Flurries
            around Ma Wilson's Sausage House, lonely
old store perched along corn fields. ("Mom Sez," through
            a quarter mile succession of signs,
A successions of signs,
as on a ship of comfort and of bread…
This weekend: Raked leaves Weather proofed house Shopped Eddie
Bauer sale Came home Made love Went to the art house theater Ate pasta Napped.
                               Signs of class, race, gender, and age.
                                 What did you forget? Everything.            
On 1460 A.M.:
            Exhausted Buckeyes after being blistered in Michigan game.                 
                        Someone yelling like a drill sergeant during...
On channel 9:
            John Wayne shoots out the dead Indian's eyes, 
                        Vanna spins, and,
            ohmygosh! That ole sheriff is shure in trouble now on The Dukes of Hazard
"The snowfall...." "Thirsty.…"   “A ship of comfort….”
Words settle like snowfall upon our shoulders.  
We brush them off. Still, they fall, inexhaustible.
How is it some make prophets of all of us in-
vested in such a stocked market, its
barrels full of crisp, night apples?
How their juices settle on our palates.
How they bathe our starry tongues.


Backdrop & Foreground
For Agha Shahid Ali (1949-2001)
Foreground  and backdrop: A writer achieves significance, interest, and
perspective by showing a specific incident, episode, or
                        example against backdrops of more general meanings.
from the teachers’ handbook to Writing With a Purpose)
Here we are, driving
the same way from work,
doing the same thing all day,

like, for me, trying to teach the con-
cept of foreground and back-
drop, say, and I straggle in-
to the house, "home" finally.
Pooped, I flop on the couch, flip
on the remote, and, thought-
lessly channeled in the ghostly
glare, watch reruns, with reruns
of commercials, repeated urges
to buy stuff, some I’ve bought,
some I haven't, and some is
different stuff from stuff  I have

but which the blaring glare says
is newer, improved, more, well,
significant, as if there was nothing,
no gain to begin with
with my first pur-
chases! See? It's exhausting
when what matters doesn’t seem
to matter, to have meaning
(meant-ness) from mo-
ment to moment. By God, hardly
a day goes by I don’t want
for such wanting. I’m not able
to afford a new Ford,
say, much less pay
towards cold, hungry chil-
dren in less af-
fluently impoverished
places. It's in poor taste
to not feed the hungry,
I know, but I must say
I think hard when the CARE
payment comes. “Have I lost
a sense of justice? Am I just ice?"
I wonder, afraid of losing what cents I have.

            Let us take some cases. Look:
            What the animal wants
            is want,
            what the human bear
            has no idea how 
                        to bare.
            To lay along your thin, reed-like body.
            Blessings of water.
            Estuary of want.
            The heart is
            a black bird
            to its thin
            Somewhere love enters (through what portal?)
                        on the scent
                                                of  air.
But let us leave the lovers to love. Now,
            walk out into the glare of sunlight.
                       Which is the foreground or backdrop
from the lookout
                        out here?
Dew late; un-                                       
wolved wind;
            your mouth too sunlight to taste,
            too sweet to salty
                                    by the cool drops of flowers;
surmise, Dame Love Sunrise,
            be the stars' wife.
                        Wild onion, mother of fennel, brown river, warm shut.
            Tree root, like a tentacle rising,
by the mites' road
                                    and the ticks swaying on grass tips;
                                    downy woodpecker
            like a flown skin on the big oak;
                                                croaked, throttled, pinched words;
                                    kick song;        
                        gloaming bud                sting tongue;
                                    bee shadow
                        through leaf      
            overhead,         overheard:
                        What you are, 
            what you unpent up, and be.

Or here
which is the foreground or the backdrop,
                        here, in this final
                        look at us, dear us?
                                                I/ ride
                                                scent dust.
                                                                                    like pollen,
coating the ribs of trees.
a wintered husk,
                                    cosmic dust,
                                    tallow to
                                    a minute's
                                                                        sumptuous prayer

                                                                        to a planet's ringing.



Stuart Lishan's poems have appeared in The Kenyon Review, Barrow Street, Arts & Letters, Xconnect and elsewhere.  He teaches literature at The Ohio State University. Body Tapestries is published by Dream Horse Press.  Click here to read more poems by Stuart Lishan in