FIRST BOOKS ISSUE
ON BLACK CLOTH WITH WHITE CHALK I DREW
I drew sea anemones.
I drew skeletons
and chandeliers and dogs—
rottweilers, pinschers, dachshunds.
I drew cherry blossoms
whiteburning to ground carpet, each petal
like a specimen
thincision of examined loss.
I drew a deep well,
empty except for some lurching worms.
I drew the well's water
inside a suitcase in a corner of the black cloth.
I drew a bicycle.
I drew a mystic to ride it.
I drew sugar, mountains, wooden spoons,
boiling kettles, notebooks, old women
waiting in line, mirrors,
hospital beds, owls, a speck of dust,
song and perfumes, a bureaucrat
wondering what to eat for lunch,
an abandoned house.
But I could not draw you near me.
I washed the cloth.
I drew a hook on the wall
and hung up the cloth.
Landon in the middle of a field,
wheaten galaxy laid
out flat, clarifying
Landon skyward in the landscape,
which yellows-greens-duns-golds-brights like the pointillism of bird
on the gamboge surface of a desert planet.
hatching the shadows
until everything shimmers
like solved quadratic equations reflectng silvery chalk dust.
Like bee wings honeying. Glint.
She can't sleep forever.
Soon the manifestations of reason will disarrange
this unsorrowed unknown
back into little patterned certainties. Even cellophane
when folded enough on itself.
but pity the word
It can't survive long
outside of a dream.
CHANEL N° 5
The scent before memory lies,
the scent of fur and rhinestones,
tinfoil stars taped to a mirror
and cigarettes extinguished on a half-eaten plate of eggs.
The scent of sagging flesh,
the scent with its hand in your pocket,
the scent your mother warned you about,
the bitter scent, the slut
all the other girls loathe.
The naked, starved scent of night.
Drunken body of avarice.
Mistress of empty gold-leaf frames
and spilled champagne.
Garter belt holding up ripped stockings:
soon the skirt will be lifted.
Light the fuse.
A palace ruined by fire.
A fire ruined by ash.
When hard thaw settles in over the flat factory towns, the morning's
up the Eastern Corridor, the peeling billboards moaning If You Lived
You'd Be Home Now, the short story suburbs neither here nor there
nor New York
nor Trenton—its cry Trenton Makes, the World Takes—she
stiffens with sympathy.
When at a banquette in the bar car, conductor punching
tickets, the surprise of milk
in her tan hand, her stack of rings tinking glass, the train wheels
the dull inevitability of cigarette smoke greying the morning and the
old snow into wet handkerchiefs, she asks if I'd like breakfast.
When instead of the ghost spectering my lungs, she chats
about hospital expenses;
a guest list for my funeral; what to do with the body and which dress,
Congressional Cemetery or Arlington, although there I could have only
a wall slot;
and hymns—her favorite Amazing Grace—she suggests
I choose something else.
When I am sick and her posture mimes the ease of black
scraps of letters
confettiing from a torn bleached sign, her dress remembering another
perhaps a different man might have said hello, a different daughter
born, a different
New York rushed to, she smiles. When I am well, I see how pretty death
to her, a story about a trip, she herself dying young,
traveling to a hospital far away,
and she offers me an elegant line reading: And come, whatever loves
to weep, And hear
the ritual of the dead. I prefer silence. When I move to California—not
a state, but
the screenplay of one, she says—I send postcards: If
you lived here, I'd be home now.
Landon Godfrey is the author of Second-Skin
Rhinestone-Spangled Nude Soufflé Chiffon Gown (Cider Press
Review, 2011). She was born and raised in Washington, DC, and now lives
in Black Mountain, NC.
Press Review seeks to discover and publish the best new poetry written
in English. Reprinted by permission.
in Volume 12, Number 3, Summer 2011.