Mudlark Poster No. 77 (2008)

Five Poems by Nina Lindsay

I now own a living room | Room by room
An explanation | Nine Haiku
This afternoon I folded the clothes

Nina Lindsay’s first book of poetry is Today’s Special Dish, published in 2007 by Sixteen Rivers Press. Recent poems of hers have appeared or are forthcoming in Ploughshares, Columbia Poetry Journal, Fence, Shenandoah, and Northwest Review. She was a recipient of a 2007 Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Prize.

I now own a living room

When I entered
Happiness was expecting me.
“A floor lamp here,” he said,

and unrolled a rug that shimmered
like seven different storms.
Then he opened his hand

upon which lay the miniature 
prototype Happiness kit. We wound it up 
and watched it march about.

Before this room, where else
could this comfort have been residing?
In the nests of hibernating mice, 

the strawberry
under its leaf,
the enormous bag of potato chips

clutched tightly to the chest? 
I’d gotten here because I’d loved
certain things and people 

against my better judgment,
ones I’d wanted to change
but found I couldn’t.

We watched a newspaper lie indecently 
across the floor. It wasn’t in anyone’s way.
We decided to stay in.

Room by room

Coming home
The shudder of envelopes knocking together
the invitation of crackers
and crackling of the radio.
The day recedes in a quiet hiss
and the night stops in like an uninvited but always welcome neighbor.

Plaster like a foggy morning with promises of later clearing.
Don’t cry,
reach up,
there where the light tumbles down
and day rises like the lid of one of many labeled boxes.

Coming home
Darkness turns its head at the gasp of the door
and the forlorn peach-skin parings
and the forgotten music baffling up round the ceiling
and the half-finished magazines caught in various stages of undress
all roll over and count to ten.

The hour has gotten ahead of us
the tub nearly full
I can hear last night’s dishes being washed, is it you?
My cup, my heart, my keys, my coat,
but you’re already out the door—

Coming home
Light shivers through its transistors,
watches the clocks,
restrains itself.
Unrolls its shadows only in the most private places.
Frowns and groans its way to rest.

An explanation

I was born in darkness—cool and absolute, generous yet unhelpful. I was raised by turtles. They brought me home swaddled in a shell, showed me sun and tried to make me love it. Taught me the elegant extension of the neck and leg and tail, the delicate and opportunistic balancing-on-top-of-your-brother trick. The hover-in-the-water. The roots of pond plants. The shadow of the bird. This explains why birds have always terrified me, why I turn my face to the sun though it burns, why sometimes you can’t find me because I stand so still, why it’s difficult to get me to say more than two words on the phone. I grew up in darkness and light. I belong to one and am accustomed to the other. Most people hate this about me. I have always liked the way that fear blurs vision—the white of the blossom, the mass of the sturgeon. I have always aspired to be as beautiful as my most affluent fears.

Nine Haiku

      a mistranslation after nine haiku by Akutagawa Rynosuke

two turtles go home
the darkness of the water
the tea still steeping


staircases in high-
rises spiral, kneel, bow
to the homely roach


crow on the tower
patronizing the rooftops—
windows laugh at him


kneeling at the edge
of the city, the house lifts
to its heels, stays in


they sit side by side
each eating half the sandwich—
startled dove returns


the window nurses
its tree laden with tremors,
throws them to the sky


windfall in my house
roll it back and forth, explain
to me why it stays 


the oarsman gives me
a choice: to ride, or to row
myself, and tell it


I find my way home,
the darkness of the water
the tea still steeping

This afternoon I folded the clothes

      a mistranslation after “The Current Condition” 
      by Du Xun-He, late 9th century

The sun was on the house, and I
progressed toward a cutting remark.
Having made it, executed a perfect retreat
and sat on my heart so that it couldn’t squeak.

    My heart ducked beneath, into its boat
    paddled quietly, furiously away
    to a country where it was recognized as taller
    and whose inhabitants set off fireworks in celebration.

Meanwhile, I put the clothes away.
Sleeves clutching other sleeves, hats
facing the window, shoulders shaky on their hangers
and the shoes huddling, having witnessed everything.

    The heart awoke
    in a house of many roofs
    and each roof its chimney pots and pigeons,
    frequencies and antennas—

I stacked the dishes so
intricately that none could therefore be removed
for fear of toppling.
I refused the mail.

    Receiving its visitors
    the heart told its tale of woe,
    accepted pea shoots
    and well water.

I stood inside my body. The body inside the body.
Lifted the utmost lid, reached to bottom
where the clothespins had fallen, 
and the husks of regret,
    and within its curtained room
    the heart heard, over the wires
    Listen, heart, I offer myself, myself
    and steaming delicacies—
            Hurry, heart, paddle home—

Copyright © Mudlark 2008
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