archives fall 2008



The Arrival Memory

The soul inside the soul wants to talk.
It posts itself a letter.  Close your eyes.  You are a young man
riding a ferry over a frozen river
through a city that bears the soft intention of steel.  You
move among its cinder blocks and windows,
and you attempt to rise—then a glistening fills the channel.
Stone wilts under the current. Inland, suburbs spin
out of balance & sand plugs your throat.  A voice that won’t
drift keeps naming the water, a blue afternoon.
There is no resolve.  By spring, were you to ask
the June hyacinth of that windy note, the blossom’s
long nights would be your first mercy. And then
the moment passes. Something like a nerve in the wind,
the velocity of train.  I’m kneeling. 
Something I will never identify brushes upside my rib. 


Spring Tattoo

There is a Xeroxed orchid in the snow deep garden
that does not waver           even as worm-yellow birds,
thick as chenille, tear at its stalk.  Your chest sunk

in the ochre glare as a mute tumble of afterthought
spread outward into the thick
grasses beyond the town’s cubicle.                    I listened to you
though you were already dead.    Bobby pins
clipped a dragonfly to your hair.  Gentle to the self

in the way of speech, was I in my invulnerable
suit of appearance, like a bearsuit—flameproof & grizzled
with the stench of old sweat & other lovers—sun glint
as history.  I am what guards you now

by waking you inside my flat stretch
of mind that will not pass.   And my gray-gravel
wall you will blow against. Constraint, seasons
I have asked you in

in the shade white & blind.

What circular lie have I loved,
with full lips of commitment.  When no one said

they would ever have me.  Inmates
beautify the I-95 roadway stepping twice
to expose tread-prints on an illuminated sheaf.


Emberiza citrinella

When you left, the landscape
divided into a hypothesis
I could not prove.  All spring
a rough greening sallied

the pear orchard & birch branches
streaked the slow river
with reflection as if to barricade

the current.  Over & over
I heard the Yellowhammer’s song
as it slipped the June gorse bush.   A path
of blanched grain splintered
in the sun. I & I
tattooed your trackmarks

on my inner forearm; at my elbow: a pothole
moment in which a burr
in the fetlock of my carriage horse
gnarled deep into ligament
                                           & was cut away
by the driver’s ripe blade.  Over & over
love lessened field into thorn, translated
the taste of tar
for the kiss you drew.


A tangerine side dish

ritually held the clink of her amethyst ring. A halo
of opposites pool in the distorted light.
Companion wavelengths double her eye
with brilliant lesions of gold. She wouldn’t be fully
asleep without being fully drowned. Her swan neck

is a constellation of creases and moles, freckles
and a paling puncture scar. The visible
horizon fades into belief. Sheets
stretch over her body and a thick air
moves her lung. The Small Cloud of Magellan

dims. How long
will she lie awake
as the night drifts past. Wondering.
An eclipsed sun
shimmers the ocean floor.


The Diction of Moths

The devil tracks you by windstorm
through the Holland tunnel where
you were slammed green by the rain; a bird
                     against glass sky—no outward
shine from the streets halo of signals.  Now

your throat is strung
with sweated beads & a tooth-shaped-scar. Lover,

while making you an argument
with his hand in the mirror
his finger slipped
in sync with the musical bell of a passing

ice cream truck. Was it the voice of something
whole?  Or a faint
treble of weakness?  The cage of your neighbor’s
Cockatiel flung
                                tinsel & fluff
across the orange shag when he broke
the doorframe. Stupor & accused still
his dank whisper spreads

through your sleeplessness.


Syntax is a village street’s staccato
of crumb & seed, the twisting
leaves of the pin oak, the wind

pulsing in ones & ones . . .

Your voice gone.  The sun not yet

risen.  Dear one                     listen,

a field mouse burrows a rusted glade
the length of your body;
blossoms inhabit blossoms. 

Eventually, orchards thaw. Eventually sparrow
release a harmonious crick
through thick grasses.

In shades his messengers speak.


Perhaps you will come back
as I study the greening shadow & the center

of the stamen which draws
downward into dusk, into blue.  O, fragment

what crocus dreams you?  Once
I was told

the gray sky was summer breath.  Everywhere
I heard the collapse         the sigh       the sternum

a sleep in which you are still alive.  Miracles

do not occur.  But by the light, this letter,
whole erasures of air repeat
at random & again    again

you begin.  


Maureen Alsop’s poems have appeared or are pending in various publications, including Agni, Tampa Review, New Delta Review, The Cortland Review, Barrow Street, Typo, Columbia Journal, and Texas Review.  Her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize four times. She is also the recipient of Harpur Palate’s 2007 Milton Kessler Memorial Prize for Poetry and Bitter Oleander’s 2007 Frances Locke Memorial Award for Poetry.  Her first full collection of poetry, Apparition Wren (Main Street Rag) was recently released. Her second collection, The Diction of Moths, is pending publication in 2009 with Ghost Road Press.