Winner of the 2005
I hoped...to ascertain...
by fitting to metrical arrangement a selection
of... real language ..., that sort of
pleasure..., which a poet may rationally
endeavor to impart.
"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.
"I was born to bask in you,
my love," is all I meant to
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
interests [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
Bauer sale Came home Made love Went to the art house theater
Ate pasta Napped.
Signs of class, race, gender,
What did you forget?
On 1460 A.M.:
Exhausted Buckeyes after being blistered in
Someone yelling like a drill
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
Foreground and backdrop: A writer achieves
significance, interest, and
perspective by showing a specific incident, episode, or
example against backdrops of more
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-
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
what the human bear
has no idea how
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
on the scent
But let us leave the lovers to love. Now,
walk out into the glare of sunlight.
Which is the foreground or
from the lookout
Dew late; un-
your mouth too sunlight to taste,
too sweet to salty
by the cool drops of
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
like a flown skin on the big oak;
throttled, pinched words;
gloaming bud sting
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?
coating the ribs of trees.
a wintered husk,
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 ForPoetry.com