J.L. CONRAD


POEM IN WHICH WE LOCATE THE OMPHALOS

It is a place to which we keep returning,
gathering up one marker after another until,
directionless, we find the house at the center
of all things, the oracle hissing and spitting
on the hilltop. It is, someone remarks, a space
inhabited by ghosts. One afternoon we spot
a nighthawk on the windowledge. When we look
the other way, it is gone. The house has a way
of killing men off slowly: something in the water,
some particulate that lodges deep inside the body.
No one really talks about it: it’s just something
everyone knows like which edge of the knife-
blade to avoid when slicing. Since the answering
service has begun asking the oracle to kindly
leave her messages, it seems the chairs
have shifted, their edges blurred, the cranes
at the stairway’s end off-kilter. We place our feet
just so on the carpet. It’s not the news
we had hoped for, but it will have to do.
 
 
 
 
POEM IN WHICH I INHABIT THE SPECTRAL

I come from a long line of saints. Which doesn’t
make me one, certainly, but it helps. A child
left its red hat in the cathedral. Saints leave
bones, which is all they have. And when I place
my hand on your lips, a current flows out and through,
both of us on the receiving end. That lightning
never strikes twice is a fallacy. What separates saints
is their preternatural calm. In the face of danger, they fail
to turn away. I no longer care if the hems of my garments
are dirty. The dishes go unwashed. I have enough
to keep me busy. Here, snug in night’s curvature.
Shrug off the news. Pour yourself a cuppa.
And come in to the where between now and never.
We’ll stretch this hour like a bow-string
and walk its tightrope sideways, skedaddling.
You didn’t always cut such a figure, you know.



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