Jeanne Stauffer-Merle


Chiaroscuro in the Garden

i

Outside the far window
a yellow sky bends to its knees
onto a flat fabric of imbrication--
ovals and lines fade in and out of focus
legs or hands slip around each other
without intention

you whispered, they don't have a culture
they just watch the coconuts fall

like trees or gods or hands folding

 

ii

Everything is dead from far away
except a strand of blond grass
with only the memory of green
waving good-bye to a ladybug giving herself
to a long thin bird
the one that could have you, too
as it moves in its immoveable way.

 

iii

With the cave of day to digest the world
there are no winners here.
The wind slices the mountains in half
so we'll always have two faces.
I keep them in safe pockets--
rocks bury themselves in quiet pieces
trees fall in huddles.
There are no rivers here
but night roosts in its wormhole
behind a blind wash of  weather--

 

iv

where the Green Man plays a spring song
the grass under his feet coiling the flowers
to bloody stains
his thighs wet with that bee growth
of flat shadows interlacing
his body so green it refuses color





And the Angels Press Together Like Cold Horses

The end goes something like this:

 rolls of blue-black wriggle down
circle everyone's feet like squirming eels
as light breaks into yellow pencils.
A wiry piece of wind pierces an abdomen--
half a hurling globe the size of a melon
stops to glare--is that a face? 
It shatters like mirror--silvery grit chokes the air.

Bits of world lie in assorted heaps
or float indifferently
around two large containers that stretch out  into space
like endless railroad cars
the color of cold water.

The inside of Container One resembles a crudely assembled halo.
Maples and oaks slouch
limbs collapsed onto ruined trunks--
pines pluck their soft bodies
erect  thorny piles of themselves.
Flora barb and flare
(no one hears):
A fire-ring before it's lit.

Container Two
glistens like an empty Kingdom Hall--
its steely bottom tilted at an angle between floor
and freshly scoured griddle--
waits for fleshier consignment
while clouds wing by like golden pigs without legs--
birds dive away and away.

Oh the birds.
Oh the birds.



Jeanne Stauffer-Merle's work has appeared or is forthcoming in Caketrain, Ellipsis, Main Street Rag, The Notre Dame Review, The Laurel Review, Beauty/Truth: A Magazine of Ekphrastic Poetry, Realpoetik, The Ghazal Page, Caveat Lector and elsewhere. Her poetry will also be included in a forthcoming anthology, The Cento: A Collection, published by Red Hen Press. She teaches writing and literature in the English Departments of Baruch College and The State University of New York at New Paltz.

"There were no front porches where I lived, no sidewalks, no open doors, just houses squat and stolid as locked boxes. But we did have a patio, out back where no one could see exactly what was going on. I see that patio now. It is a sweltering summer day, and the sun blasts down onto the glittery white concrete beside the back screen door. My family huddle together inside. They are shadows of icy light flickering on the sofa, their faces like transparent popsicles growing out of the frosty glow of the television. An ice hand might crawl into the air to raise a spoon of sorbet to ice lips, but otherwise, nobody moves. I'm eight years old, lying on the pavement outside. My big waxy moon face tries to make friends with an ant who scurries quietly beside me, then stops. He looks up and seems lost. I remember wondering why, since ants were supposed to be social creatures, he was so alone."

Masthead


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