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Seed Erratum and the Divine Hen’s Eggy Cipher


The painter plunders a gesture for
solidarity and absolute need.
The painter said I’m alive. She won’t believe
the stillness with which the self transforms

from supine to straight the silhouette’s lie,
even finer than the lie in relief.
Stars are the sky’s erroneous belief.
I have a Chinese lantern. I have a firefly.

The painter says redo the stars your doomed
to something sort-of crocus,
the silver-sided hill, hibiscus.
No matter the sky, I shouldn’t presume.

No matter I’m not a pulmonary, split
cell, but a third kind of revelator
falling into reverie
easy as falling into a chair. Whit

of a crocus is crushed for its saffron, side
of a hill stripped for what it provides—


House and garden should not separate.
Walking one to the next is useful,
but to walking add another wrinkle:
house, garden, stable should be inseparable,

but for garden substitute river: house,
river, stable should be inseparable.
Sailing is adorable
but there’s always the trouble: what hearth

boat, what boat kitchen table? Choose geese
for fois gras, chickens for eggs, remake
oyster shells into gravel, head to the lake.
A gate opens onto some caprice

of a meadow painted since tomorrow
a luminous, branched canopy, brocade
route to absolute enjoyment inlaid
with annual baby’s breath and corn flower

and above: the house, garden, stable
disguised as weather’s cloudy preamble.


Little to do, body’s palladium 
swings in the metonymic breeze
just to crumple in allés of orange trees.
Poor marbled Apollo is dumb

to locomotion’s one desire
for half-moon, a full folded up
lunar lecture sky disrupts
with crosshatchings of telephone wire

and the snaky undulations of geese.
How silly to drape a thundercloud,
that low-slung, mid-afternoon shroud,
over an already funereal face!

Three o’clock’s disappointment spills
black fabric across the brow. As in boats
that cruise the canal, my hands under coats
cruise whatever vellum skin’s living will

I happen across. With a fingertip
I read: a pair of chairs. A sailing ship.


Congregating to themselves birds gather
not simply the first representation,
but second and third, seed erratum
and the divine hen’s eggy cipher.

A shadow lacks dirt material.
Which came first? A Pierrot writes
in his notebook (again and again): stage fright,
when he really means self-denial

which is not among the list of birds he loves.
Harlequin peacock outcocks the chicken.
Caprioling fountain in flight mimics
what’s perfect and good about the mourning dove.

To go back and decide what’s beautiful!
To go back and decide what’s vital, oh
how petrifying and how like a Perriot
to write himself into that fable

of naming and deciding. It’s so like
a clown to be that worn down and heart sick.


A Grand Tour is now a fancy walk-through
an empty park. Trash of my thoughts catch
in its trees. Click of simple machines blotch
the beating of birds’ wings. That’s what I like!

Muffled beat, bulk metal returning
to vindicate, ash of my fire,
if a breeze blows, rioting to a high
mimetic tinder can still out burn:

the beating of birds’ wings. In an ash grove’s
rot of leaves, I sink my momentous
snow-tipped, vertigo-hung hardscape,
coo out the most tender ringdove

from its nest in my copper-stripped hair
and with my hands smother it to sleep.
There, there. Long-buried ego seeps
the watershed, drowns somewhere        else.

The next tour of my body’s house begins:
where god is now you’d find the kitchen.  


Lesley Jenike’s first book of poems is Ghost of Fashion (CW Books, 2009). Her poems have  been published recently in Poetry, The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review,  The Birmingham Poetry Review, Sou’wester, and others. She teaches at the Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio.