Mudlark Poster No. 107 (2012)
They catch too many, so the kids pitch fish

               at each other in hysterics, then bait
the wire trap with the last of the breadballs.

little fins, you go for it. Always
               it’s your dumb, blameless hunger. It’s a fact

children want to learn how to play: minnows
               swim into traps. The rest is extra,

bodies impaled on sticks, lost in tangled

               grass grown cold with nightfall. They get called in
for dinner. Perishing blossom, listen,

               he sang, tear it all apart, but love me.


And that red bird, my heart. Pyrotechnic
iris shooting off their Roman candles

from the seawall, the lagoon swells with tide,
all buds burst, a whorled, seductive surface

               I want appears. Here, what mystery this

itchy libidinous joy radiates,
here, drink it, the great fountain of eros,

               the boundary crosser, the cross-dresser,

category dissolver, best solvent
for hesitancy, temptation’s trumpet

               flower in the surge, ka-thump ka-thump ka-

thump, everything I say I want, every
one. Heat and light beat a seesaw rhythm

               difficult to interpret mid-sentence,

a body makes its declarations, pulls
to orbit irresistibly ideas

               and other minds, strict attractive fluid

force of creation itself looking for
release, for reasons we were made this way.


Sanctus spiritus.
                              In an old

I’m squinting bucktoothed at the camera,
standing in the lot at Saint Margaret’s,

still tonguing the nontaste of the wafer.
It’s like eating paper but easier,
I later tell my little brother, who

isn’t listening. When the church burns down
I am grown and long gone out of that town.

I can fit my thumb over the image
of me in a white dress, white crown and veil
(here’s grandmother Nellie in a big hat,

my father smiling, a Kodak blue sky),
but underneath my thumb, I am still there,

worry or something on my face, as if
I could foresee the wandering ahead.

Everyone else
                              in the picture
                              is dead.


               It was said the man
               mixed clay with
               his spit

as a poultice for blindness. It was said
the prophet’s tongue received a burning coal

               and yet burned
               only with words.

If I am conjuring, let innocence
answer. It was said that one touch can wake

               the dead
               weight of the mind
               and carry it

home on the stem of a lily. If I
am conjuring, let innocence answer.


A sand dollar broken into quarters.
An osprey climbing out of a spiral.

Signify: the axle assembly was
slinging lubricant from the pinion seal.

               Somewhere I read about the caddisworm,
               the larva of a caddisfly, whose home
               is a silken case stuck outside with trash,
               old dead leaves and sticks it drags around, fat
               on algae at the bottom of some pond,
               camouflaged until its wings are finished.

A very cute trick, although the journey
to that far surface is nowhere described.

Quahoggers off Nayatt Point fade to gray
across the leaden silver wave moiré.


Refusal to acknowledge beauty is
a failure of nerve, so acknowledge it:

screen door slams, summer evening, my neighbor
fends off mosquitoes, standing and calling

the names of his children, and every night
always the one who will never reply,

every time, who he must go out and find.
Three bells chime, bells are twining each leaf on

the vine, spreading wide its branching green palm
as he passes the last golden chime down the
                                                             down the line
                                             down the line


               Test the spirits.
We have so mistaken

flame in the shape of the body
               for lust,

any moment of speech
               for possession,

have measured dimensions of the planet
using infinitely malleable

               shadows, ours,
as a standard unit. Here

               they are as fists, here attenuated
as bridges, late afternoon stilting through

the dry meadow across the road.
               When I

turn to you your eyes blaze up like watered

               sunlight. We have been taught
only some things.


               To tell
so color can approximate

               the sky
                              blue inside the curved line moving
about and below the close horizon,

               the chord
ringing in the spine, pale grass, all

                              of order. I am pointing, now
follow my hand outline snowy hillsides

               or section
an orange, still it’s only

                              a white bowl, a flame, three herons
fishing. If one were to say the self is

               a bowl,
fills water and brims over, wells

               and spills
                              abundance to be this singing.
Oh that yes I had a thousand voices.


Talk radio strays from rusty pickups.

The whole morning long a fisherman spreads
               his feet on broken oystershells, casting,

casting, the thin screeee of the line peeling
               off a reel, mixed with cries of early gulls

scheming each other over stolen food,
               pitiless in pursuit of a prize dropped

plop on the tideline, some cracked, wretched crab
               still waving its one good leg. His line casts

and gulls wheel past the first channel buoy
               and water erupts with baitfish leaping

from darkness where cooler swifter water
               streams in from the bay. We all of us shout

and point: mayhem on the surface signals
               something huge and deep, in an instant

flick the house catches fire, fish slapping at ex-
               its, getting nowhere fast, and he goes there

knowing, big ones down below. He goes there.

Karen Donovan has had poems most recently in Conjunctions and Blackbird. Her collection of poems called Fugitive Red, published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 1999, won the Juniper Prize. From 1985 to 2005, she co-edited Paragraph, a journal of short prose published by Oat City Press. She works as a writer for a nonprofit educational organization in Providence, Rhode Island.

Copyright © Mudlark 2012
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