you are in the diode archives fall 2010



A Bird Brings a Dream in Which You Are Orphelia

for Jesse Lee Kercheval

the white bird brings you a rose: she sits on your shoulder and grooms your hair and your ear: you know that such actions are displays of respect: she’s an odd bird: not a dove: nor a gull: more an albino crow: as though not the ancient messenger: the envoy from underworld: she talks to you: she speaks likes the radio in Cocteau’s Orphée: silence is twice as fast backwards: you give a wry Mona Lisa smile: somewhere a man is stepping out of a mirror: in a white tuxedo: he is peeling off his driving gloves: putting his naked touch on everything in this world: you reach up to tickle the bird’s neck: she nuzzles your fingers as you try: you put the rose in a slender vase: the water shimmers and sings: your shouldered guest goes right on talking: birds sing with their fingers: you place a white feather next to the rose: outside you can hear the Rolls Royce pulling up: cloud white: Mr. Mirror stepping carefully out of the back: the crescent of the moon glinting off the fender of the car: you say to the bird: I’ll be out late: no need to wait up: and you’re sure she winks back at you


Orphée on the Radio

for Mac McKinney

All night Cocteau is singing
a love song to a woman
who steps out of her mirrored world
continuing to move as though the universe
sprockets backwards in a film can.

The Rolls Royce never sleeps,
it is a shark with the radio stuck
on the one channel that handcuffs
Orphée to the backseat—
the Stockholm Syndrome passenger.

A woman born of the mirror
does not bite into an apple
but puts back whatever she’s taken
from a previous life—this is what Orphée
loves when he is not in love.

She has a million phrases for entropy
all believably good—when read
aloud they wing into poetry.
Orphée translates the radio of her
song—he will play in her top 40

bandstand show. Other doo-woppers will
compete for the heart of a mirror.
He wears his best skinny tie,
tight thin-legged suit. Gels his hair;
grabs the microphone and sings

her heart undone. Shatterglass,
if you look back—
he always does.
There is no beauty without bright edges,
the depths of the heart, loss and love
and loss, strobing wildly in a mirrored hall.


Training the Wolf-Girl

Fundamentals were laid out
like clothes on the bed.
I walked the dim lit halls
with dog biscuits in my pocket—
unsure whether she could see me,
or hear me, or smell me first.
I heard her breathing in corners.
I bought a book on lycanthropy
and dog eared several pages for later.
I learned the lunar cycles.

Sometimes I spoke at length
to the gypsies passing through town.
In the dead of sleep there was howling,
sometimes scratching
at the pantry door.  I accused
myself of too many movies.
She was just learning verbs,
the power of names, casting a spell-
ing bee where all the participants
were less tame, unleashed.

She loved the sound of chalk
scraping along the slate—
especially the lazy looping g
and y.  She seemed to intuit
and push boundaries.
She growled at hall passes,
preferring stealth.  This made the other
kids uneasy as barned horses.
The newsmen in their stabled ties
told stories of disappearances

and untimely demise; I mapped
phases of the moon. Each morning
the tables and chairs were upturned
and scattered from their unnatural
order. I never saw a paw print. 
Tried to keep an open mind about
her and her ways.  Yet my fear
remained unchained: that she might
discover another of her kind.  


J. P. Dancing Bear is the author nine collections of poetry, most recently Inner Cities of Gulls and Conflicted Light (Salmon Poetry, 2010 and 2008). His poems have been published in DIAGRAM, Copper Nickel, Third Coast, Natural Bridge, Shenandoah, New Orleans Review, Verse Daily, and many other publications.  He is editor for the American Poetry Journal and Dream Horse Press.  Bear also hosts the weekly hour-long poetry show Out of Our Minds on public station KKUP.  His next book, Family of Marsupial Centaurs, will be published by Iris Publications in late 2010.