FIVE POEMS
victoria brockmeier

CATALOG AFTER FINE CALAMITY

lay your hand down here, i said to the snow, & break
what will.  be taken to the ground.  leave

wind out of this.  i had my reasons.  wood, rent, jagged
as though bitten through, raw.  edges
around a deeper hole, gash down a trunk bright, crash of greenery

into greenery & snow.  this side of structure, torque
& cry, limber collapse: none of this
will happen again.  fractures staccato
all night like fireworks, physics gone belligerent

as wood gives itself to gravity.  limbs crack free
to harrow the air, twigs scrape, slap metal,

sweet gust of leaves.  & ice: it was snowing
& going to snow, darken houses,
hurl electricity across their yards.  dream a soot colored wolf

& its open jaws, the cat jerking awake
all night, her claws.  slicing small
into my shortest ribs.  voltage spat into the air,

snapped.  free of lines.  to a loosed elsewhere, arcs.  branches drop
to the roots that fed them,
straight down & gathered.  quit clean through.  trunks split

like a hand opening flat, splintered
token.  remaining.  in the center, near-white & violent.  my good eye

is the missing one.  offend me.  twice.  you know me, i never know
what i want.  i could dissolve
into frost any minute.  this perforate ice

is mine, fearful, this shambles, windshields folded
like laundry, the snow raining into itself, tossed
whiter, forced dazzle, thawing, the wind’s each sally

into brayed treetops.  daylight.  prone.  an ash cracked in half
at shoulder height, crown splayed into snow & new dark mud; shrine, tribute,
witness, mast.  each brilliant splinter

dewed, & unburied: a tarred circle, a branch, years & years
severed, sealed over, unburied.  these roots, mantled
in shaggy earth; a piece, a pine tree, open

at what had been.  its foot, what
i had never seen.  the air going to pieces.  snow
soughs through wet leaves, nestling in their veins, in the folds
of bark.  to pieces.  how low the clouds skid

between them & the sky.  rush.  pile.  rush.  vanish.  whirl.
sap rises: revenance.  from the vegetal catastrophe
lining roads, a green, frozen scent.  years later these limbs will curve
groundward, these unslack.  vanish.  a plow

chokes to a halt, its engine
pouting, failing, overcome.  the operator
had angled, cut, shoved but lit a cigarette

& shuffled on foot down what he’d cleared, head
low.  give over this spate into blear, being icebound, carrying home
cans of gas, cases of beer through what aisles

remain.  give casualty.  its stand
of laurels.  hold to your tongue the wet edges
this night breaks out of itself.

 

SIGNED ITSELF OVER SILENCE
(MOCKINGBIRD & A SIN TO SAY IT)

 

when she’s happy, she babbles like a crowd
                      (she is a
                                             brilliant mimic)
cuckoo, cuckoo
her almanac suggests it’s time for her
to mother another egg outside her nest

cuckoo
cuckoo
cuckoo

what’s in
the crisp, fattening consonants, what’s in the fluting
vowels, what’s in gilt
                      (on the edges or)

                      on one’s face.  little girl turned gold by the rain; little girl
                      turned to mud.  if you can find time

to gather the straw, anyway.  when she’s trapped, she
mimics a corner.  cuckoo.

calling
                            to errors
the body that left hers the last few minutes of night
while a meteor was singeing
                      the spruce trees

                                 (cuckoo) dropped from her sorry side.

if you can find the woman who named me
ask her to tap out its number with her red nails.  (on the richter scale

i’m six pounds & two.)  what
was it to drag on a cigarette & lay this
                                  on the dewy bit of me across from her – 

majors only & call out
the ranks.  artificial synonyms, artificial
antonyms, fraud by way of spasticity
                      warbles its litany, staccato, more or less
                      iterative, & finally covers over
                      any other kind of time.  what it means to wear her blood

in one’s face in a blush.  how
when i dream, i
                      swim
unlike a fish but like a swimmer

                      when anything

gets gulped into my lungs as though there’s space
in there.  water

with iron & lime, pollinated
airwaves.  on a day sacred to earthquakes when nothing nothing.

so be thankful that ashy has shy in it.  song on song. . .
sometimes the routine just breaks.

or genealogies crumble like they’re
calcified & maps,
dusty grains holding

to their parcels of road – one
                      channels erasure
                      (cuckoo/cuck)

& there isn’t any or else.  a very old man
with enormous antlers growing from his back instead of wings:

that’s how.  where things that fall

may fall, haply
halfly, fall, clover buds, ace
of moles, caltrops

to meet an egg-blind chick’s cry.  in her tribulation, she lashes one
like somewhere there’s a fakebook for penitence.

 

 

THE WORLD'S LITTLEST VIRGIN GOES TO MARS
after caroline crachami

 

secretly i was born colleen but we will tell you
otherwise – that i am an imp of sicily, that i grew
my queer-pitched voice on its sweet shores
talking to seagulls, to clownfish

but i have never seen its sand they say looks like sugar.

known in all the land
born x pounds sterling (it changes
with the town & the time i am told
this is the fire that floats balloons)

i have a nightmare feeling sometimes
my arms are beginning to bend backward, these years
these little years but long on the road, this perch

more faces below than i have fingers to count, startled into big eyes
(not as big as mine nor as dark but

i have the advantage of being
almost part bird, having pecked at beans & strawberries
having clung by my toes to wires) & whispers, ’tis the fairy
’tis a lady in that cage

you are all very tiny from here, but none so tiny as me

& ’tis a lady, you say
answer as i can, endeavor
to please, to amaze:

twelve.  yes, but mayfair was the best.  my needlework.  to ride
a hundred-year-old tortoise.  i couldn’t choose
but if you make me, i will say – clear violet lilies on lilypads.

a priest said it’s because my mother
ate mandrake, drew a djanic’s ire & one dusk
he cursed her to bear a baby with the strength
of a sparrow.  no one did, they say, no one gave me
even one spring.  here, they gave me a tambourine

i use as a table & dance on for seconds. & there are the curtains
for my walls, my dressing-table, my hobby-horse,
my unshuttered window.

to weave a field of barley
it is the same as a unicorn’s yellow mane.  a french knot, so the beetles
can give their ladies roses, a couched circle of may-dancers
for joy.  but i’ve never seen the ribbons right

so i’d only make them backwards.  in camelot, my tower
would rest among reachier sisters, stare up at them all around
& rain, there would be rain on our faces

even from in here i’ve made it rain music
on leaves & rooves; it falls not from clouds –
shimmers into glassy stones that shoot down like meteors
from the scrim of summer skies

once it starts i can hear it even if i stop my ears, so
i might as well sing with it, sing with you too, i’m singing

when you talk
chirrip, chirrip!  echoes cheerly

to the music that runs down the window, slow bright tones
instead of mud, that’s where jewels come from,
when it soaks into the underground.  dwarves

have this affinity for jewels.  mine is quartz
so you can see yourself.  in the sky is set

a meteor waiting its moment; it carries my name
in its light & i shall follow it down dively
leaving a crack across my mirror, crooked smile,
singing my last last song.

 

 

PASIPHA╦ FUCKING THE BULL

 

confusion of sweat, skins, she surrounds me, we
him, echoes among our bodies forge
a union smooth as a pearl – but how the splints chafe, how they low

she the leather & i the flesh leather & lath the flesh
forged to take him on our backs, to take

motionless in the swell & held there as it surges through us, salt
& hot as the ocean our father, as the sun on his rippling body, furious & glad
pouring around a dock’s pilings on the water’s moving surface

but carry me a broad land on your back
over or down through, over, daze me, bully me beneath you, pin me

toward the urgent maze desire writes
in weak light that pretends to dawn: risking

this secret knurl of territory, which center aches
bounded by death, which carries a diamond
cut from light, a hard chime, on its crest –

the weight of him, the weight
of him, the weight he throws
into our bodies, the thrust
of gravity turned from the earth
this can’t help but be holy

i will say for she has no words to her name, my love, my love, my love,
you’re not even the same animal i am, no matter,
my love, my singing, possess me thoroughly: shore
where i’ve broken into god’s own lightning

get with me a king bearing your proud head on his shoulders
& when i die let me drink of mnemosyne’s fountain that i may return
adorned with the memory of your teeth holding me, firm
by the nape, your skin raw at the backs of my thighs

& cry out my gratitude that we travel in one another
these convolutes from world to bliss & back

 

 

AN ART IN ITS LAST DAYS

 

this lenten season: i’m giving up prayer.  time god and i
got out of each others’ heads.  i wrote haunted
more times in the past year than in my life before added together
but this is the first time i will write the word: demons.  places on me

i didn’t know could be hollow.  a watershed
where my ribs divide & underneath a shadow, around my knees
sockets you could set your thumb into.  pare me to a sliver of only bone,
nearly mineral, where the day’s signs tend.  archaeological,
unreadably smooth, whether made to a purpose or worn

by river, weather, to its needle shape.  the absence of tool marks
fails to guarantee the absence of tools when the work is so fine.

writing fine i continue.  in summer
even so expansive, hive-construction is less a pastime
for the leisure class every year.  as freely as our carmine blooms indulge
the wet air, as deliberately.  carry the words away like pollen.
to a wrinkle in the water that refracts, the air,

a mirage of bone indistinct from hive: of light.  i continue
a manner of mute.  the absence of wing membrane
fails to guarantee the absence of flight, when the work
wanes to vanishing and remains, vanished.  a stylus

perhaps that stitches words out of the world & promises
movement as its last urge.  god insists on corpses; never on the lacunae
they enter.  if this is an excavation, the cells

will disclose themselves with contents.  if it is a hermitage,
take it as far as the more gibbous impressions, or reflections
passing through or not.  stop praying for the month & make room

for ordinary seasons, their shift, their altering curves.  look to balance
on the palms & if possible to spring, to prepare

the gracious choice of gathering honey
& then lay in its odor like a hammock.  continue in time, profane, even quiet.
when the work is as fine and sharp as pollen.

 

Victoria Brockmeier's first book of poems, my maiden cowboy names, won the 2008 T. S. Eliot Prize and was published by Truman State University Press.  Her poetry has appeared in LIT, Pleiades: a journal of new writing, Chelsea, and many other journals.  She is finishing her dissertation, Apostate, Sing This World Forth: Avant-Mythopoetic Encounters With Doubt, Chaos, and Community, at the University at Buffalo.