Margot Schilpp's first collection of poetry, The World's Last Night, was published
in 2001 by Carnegie Mellon University Press. She is currently living in Connecticut,
and teaching at Southern Connecticut State University and Quinnipiac University.
She has an upcoming book, Laws of My Nature, from which "Ouija" and "Trompe
L'Oeil" are taken, to be published by Carnegie Mellon University Press in 2005.
Words A Hospitality
An oasis can spring up in the actual
dark - consider the pineapple,
its hospitality and form, that faceless
baby crying welcome. It isn't much
that you are offered peace, but it's enough
to keep and hold, even while parasites
practice the natural process of living.
Today the wind infects my consciousness
with sound: I stay away from radios,
block my ears with cotton. Surely
there's a shore across the ocean that adores
you, and a whistle blowing somewhere
down the street. Make the sun turn
its head to evening, make Spanish moss
and maples rest, so everyone
can wander to the seaside, dig clams
or skip rocks, or generally be.
Be is the state I'm reaching for,
though in that I suppose I'm failing -
I am not and am not, though often
there is consequence. In the garden
snails smooth across the stones
and you must be slow to follow them.
And provide hot cups of tea
for company, for visitors who depart
before they arrive. I wonder about the mice
I hear and the courtesies that require the voice
of hunger nailing at the door. Too rebuked
the heart. So I'm stopping in the silk tent
I see in dreams - your face on every citizen,
your hands an invitation I accept.
But isn't this the way that memory mourns?
One thing replaces another and so on
and so on until, like the layers of our skin
that shed themselves, your whole
updates again. In the aperture of grief,
I take a picture of the past, when it didn't help
to be reminded that textures and pomegranates
can mean the same thing, if the light is right,
the brain floating lovely in its preservation. Forget
the first grade teacher's name, the slogans carved
in desks. Torsion is defined in part by force:
if one day the brave glance betrays you,
it's process you can blame: the look
foretold and every pattern blanking out,
the faithless end of bruise and bite and hold.
The letters spell water
so I think to avoid it. I shun
baths, travel over land.
Nothing's by logic
here. Intuition rules, not
a butterfly, not a zombie
or a house without doors,
the merciful blank
or its outcome.
The letters spell food,
so I eat. Later, act.
So I audition, absolutely
me. Suppose has
something to do
and need, which are fabrics,
sheets drawn tight around me.
Worshipful at the estuary,
a strange sight.
The letters spell longing.
Know of the pine.
Know of the berry.
I make a pile of leaves
in the dark, spread them
down the hallway.
I bring them in,
but say no,
wanted to be
wanted another hour
and a candy of flesh
to roll in my mouth.
Wanted eyes I could put
in my back pockets.
and decadent to conflate
within me, to limitless,
to time, to water, to dark
longing in your hair.
Wanted chewing on me.
Stars all across.
The letters spell salvage.
Desired a robot for the moment.
And a tree, and a white fox dashing
across the dreams.
Wanted flight and
passage. Skin I could not lose.
Wanted more of being
a curvature of thought, a true,
a knot. Wanted
to be caught up, wanted dusk,
wanted sheets to sweat into.
To mummify. To thaw. To be
wanted exactly so.
Tomorrow and tomorrow, gentlemen,
yet there's only today to notice
how in a city without money,
kisses can buy you
a song or an hour of having
honeydew melon rubbed into
your skin. It shouldn't take so long
to realize the city is
on fire: vision happens badly, your eyes
tricked into not remembering
depth. Patterns soak into you,
and that's all you have.
Simple, to define what is wrong
and know it is so. Harder
to refrain. See the illusion
overtake you, wash over
you like the end of youth, over
the setting sun dangling like a kite
in the trees, then lower,
a refinement of a web, a scar,
a distance that orders soldiers
to the fields. They do not want
to go. Their families love them.
Their blood resides inside their skin.
Then, into place, the hours.
And how berries taste when
you're in love. The world owes
you the admiration of children
and dogs, the story behind the story.
Stay to discover lycanthropy
and silence and the voodoo
of satin peeling away
from skin. I can't go around thinking
there is more-there's just now,
these words, these veins on this leaf,
that are here, then will vanish into
the amnesia of the hours. But doesn't
it all look real? Doesn't it fool the eye
into constructing a finer work?
A trick of pigments: one stroke
here, another, then a whole building
or city or scene projects into the universe.
Far, the shore of home, slow the hours to get there.
The oriole transports an earthworm,
the bower-bird, sticks to lure
his love-most animals take home only
what they can carry in their mouths-
but we must bear the weight of many hearts
to protect us from the winds
that gather, from the idea of heaven.
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