. . . sitting in forgotten chairs . . . Paul Zweig
You dang near pulled my finger off says
my neighbor to her dog
and her dog stares briefly and breaks.
She's recently married to her
second husband, Gerald, the happiness
new and dramatic, but there are pains, or numbnesses,
her whole left side seems half
alive, the cervical area, she
points with her right arm and forefinger
behind her neck, this might be it . . .
Her dog has stopped and stands still
as if straddling two cities.
The insolent white star of his chest.
The love of sitting in forgotten chairs.
The laughter of two people, the
yield, the humility
Not the boredom or the fear,
not the waiting, not the motion
and momentum. Only
the spokelike tender turnings like
a bicycle clicking through time.
The pain situates here
and here, the left holds on to
the right, the dog has
flown to what he imagines
as the final spectra --
where else would one wear a leash
over the shoulder
like a scarf on an airman?
I can hear the even clicking
of a bluejean button as it tumbles
in the clothes dryer in a room
off the kitchen. Is the world
coming to an end? Why ask
such questions if it is not?
The lucid skin, the salt and sorrow.
I am back in childhood.
I see the father leaning over the steaks.
He has his shirt off, is smiling into the lens.
He thinks he will never die.
The stairs in heaven shake their chains.
Smoke rises like always with casual
meandering florets which stick in the eye.
The mother seeks unintended grace.
Unintended? Grace? Seeks?
I have been this child who hid.
Who listens as the button falls.
If you turn away the universe
would sail, everything would
shift. The moment pressing down.
In a few minutes the telephone rings.
The voice says who in the hell
do you think you are.
If I bother to look outside
snow sluices down the street
with great masses of leaves
I haven't raked but I stare
inward and fail to speak
as if I'm on a bus.
The setting spins by.
The dwellings are real.
I am who I think.
From Ghost Notes, by Ralph Burns, published by Oberlin College Press
(http://www.oberlin.edu/~ocpress/). Copyright © 2001 by Ralph Burns. All
rights reserved. Used with permission
Ralph Burns is co-director of creative writing at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. He has published six collections of poems: Ghost Notes, which received the Field Poetry Prize, (Oberlin College Press, 2001); Swamp Candles (University of Iowa Press, 1996); Mozart's Starling (1990); Any Given Day (1985); Windy Tuesday Nights (1984); and US (1983).
Ralph Burns has published in many magazines including The Atlantic, Poetry, The Kenyon Review, and Field. He has won a number of awards, including the Iowa Poetry Prize, the Great Lakes Colleges Award for the Best First Book in Poetry, and two fellowships in poetry from the National Endowment for the Arts. Next week, we will feature an excerpt from his latest book, Ghost Notes.
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\Dip"te*ra\- An extensive order of insects having only two functional wings and two balancers, as the house fly, mosquito, etc. They have a suctorial proboscis, often including two pairs of sharp organs (mandibles and maxill[ae]) with which they pierce the skin of animals. They undergo a complete metamorphosis, their larv[ae] (called maggots) being usually without feet.