Original Poetry: Magritte’s Panels

On the Threshold of Liberty (1937)

i.

On the threshold of war,
      Magritte promised liberty
with a painting compartmentalizing
      an octave of ambiguities held in check
by an appliqué-flat
      black cannon

in the space created
      by angled panels.
Walls of verdancy and altocumulus clouds.
      Tessellated mechanisms.
An anonymous nude tilts
      toward a suggestion of flame.

ii.

July’s uncompromised
      Texas
sun on the collarbones
      glinting rivulets of sweat
purl,

      a sprouting of slightly curled
hair fanning out
      to just beyond the attentive nipples
retracting
      sepia-flow bisecting the abdominals;

slick hands, thumbs shuck
      fine cotton from hip-hooks.
Every inch glistens

      upon a precipice
among the tiered ledges of Hippie Hollow,
      and he
one of many young men
      who plunge
into the dam-made distensions
      and depths of Lake Travis.

iii.

A graded cement path embedded
      with river pebbles
ascends to the threshold
      of a charred pit, a cavity
like December, an emptied swimming pool.

Nobody was hurt last night.

Something smolders.
      Skeletal studs transgress
the retaining wall wet with the elements.
      Drizzled mist obscuring
ravines, then neighbors.

A young woman came home to marry.

Affixed to the metal banister
      a seared veil
(dripping, rustling)
      blossoms like the ohia lehua
on the scorched slopes of Mauna Loa.

She’ll borrow more than planned.

iv.

The Hennepin Canal, a weeping gash
      cleaving corn fields,
slides toward Rock Island.
      Docks. Mississippi River barges.
The railyards that reel in mile-long trains
      more economically
than a gouged waterway

without expediency among the stands
      of cottonwood, catalpa, black
walnut. Mulberries, raspberries
      lower their fruit
to the murky mirror-surface
      to colonize new banks
to see their feral reflection.

Shouldering the northern boundary
      of an historic distribution,
a clutch of red-eared sliders basks
      on the emerging
limbs of a submerged hickory
      skirted
by unretrieved sport fish.

v.

All dials align
      in a confluence of eights.
The Water Cube waits empty, incandescent.
      Its ready lanes maximized
for glorious upon glorious
      achievements in speed.

Tenths of seconds matter
      as eight and two thousand
volunteers from the compulsory Red Army
      Fou drum
the Olympic countdown
      in the bowl of the Bird’s Nest.

The machinations.
      The mechanistic precision
of rachet wheel and return spring.
      The delicate hairspring
tensely wound; the holding back
      of Tai Chi masters

and space between the Gate
      and Hall of Supreme Harmony
near Military Eminence
      in the Forbidden City.
Southward is the stage,
      Tiananmen Square, counting.

vi.

Venice of the Middle East – Basra City.

Canals radiate from the Shatt al Άrab
      until it unfolds into the sea.
Stillness envelops mid-day
      along pockmarked streets.

A sun illuminates
      empty window ledges.
Sheets are drawn
      where there are no curtains.

Armored vehicles define
      areas of influence.
There is a dusty
      matte-sheen to them.

And a torpid response
      to necessary errands.
A dull peace
      derives from their presence.
 
 
 
 
 
[Check out other original poems here.]

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