Winter 1992, Volume 9.1
Poetry

EVE SHELNUTT

The Author Exiled

Misfortune hot, crackling, noxious
as war-gas: all his stories presaged it
as if a slabbering maddog seized the pen,
no sin so blasphemous, ill, surly
it would not suffice for Georgette
or Helena holed up in bedsitters
with men collapsed into ardors of sleep,
even light narrow and stained.
They were all too late, too soon:
trifles concocted from a silver head
where a few chords struck almost authentic
considering how far he had come.
Resting, he lights a cigarette, fat,
aromatic. The pretty ones come alone
red-cheeked and laughing always,
their uncles drowsy under linden trees
miles away where rain has stopped, where
magpies answer from willows. Helena
should sit by Mitrea's pond with his head
in her flowering lap, a bite of food,
something to drink, clothes not easily
unbuttoned as fish fill the nets.
Air should barely stir: how
it should be in any language
seizures of warmth, the petty thieves
flying by in cars perfectly silent
beyond the hill, noted without irony.
All the while he waited in Odessa,
papers sewn in his coat, the image rose
wave-like with its frill of foam
imprinting black sand. Would anyone
read his heart? But Anjanette
lifts Koyla's scarred arms. No
seeing him fresh. And against the torn
windowscreen the flies continue buzzing.

 
The Poet's Wife
 
His greatest poems will be found
in the double plot behind Black Sea Street
proving beauty survives even the future
with its womanly green arms
held out to the sound of collapsing stone.
Honest humanity: he made us tea
to sip as we watched the sea produce
black goats undulant on blue grass,
chewing with thin, wet lips.
At night I led him off the balcony, time
fondled on small sheets he threw down
on the table. He divorced me
in his final year, wife ticking
and it seemed best to hide.
He had come close to: seeing the mast
of Heaven, surprised. Did I weep?
Dry grass was sheathed in frost
when he died. Quickly we must collect
all the sounds of scratching, even
the lazy hiss of ancient Greeks along the shore.
 
We Have Drowned Our Passion Like Kittens
We have drowned our passion like kittens
so that others may think what they please,
a ridiculous case of subordination to men
who would slip on apples and women
who would never say no to a courteous request.
Maybe they know how to use their voices
to save themselves, willing to spend
all day and all night in the same house
with the jawbone of an ass to toss across the yard.
What shall they do to pass the hours we call
life if another birth would kill them? Well
what of it? None of us has been quite safe.
We have to keep the windows open and tell a few
amiable fairy tales and pay the servants
on the one hand, the merchants on the other.
Let them sit down again and have some wine,
another pipe of tobacco to remind them of fate.
Here we are, here we are on the war-path again.
Why not tell the truth?

 
Memory

The horde of children
in the meadow: urges
tangled in red.
Ah, it is raining.
Their hands cover their
wounded heads
as if they have
forgotten the world.
Is it then a fever
seizes them? One
by one Juliet
will come to bed
and the pretty boys
who have completely
lost their heads
will stand outside
not far from speech.
Deep down
the girls are
thinking: Should they
tell me the rest?

 
A Little Story

The train pulled out with Martin on it.
Many people had left me;
at 18 it seemed I had lived too long.
I walked by the skating rink swept smooth
by men with brooms and silence. How much
love is in a look? If I had met a beggar
I would have given him my coat, my gloves,
agility. Suddenly I heard the sound of rain
as if all the year's leaves were stirring.
I met no one, only a wet, white dog;
sadly, I cannot recall how I got home
where a cold supper waited on the table.
I fed the dog bread and meat, then
talked with my uncle about the price of wood.
All I had to do was fasten in memory
the smallest detail of events, becoming
a guest in my own family. And no one
could take this richness from me, no one
had power over it but me.

Love

Some do it in doorways
but their life is harder
however long it takes
for a normal man with a pension
whose wife Natalia is putting
the children to bed.
Some turn into poets
with peaceful hearts, smiling
at girls with embroidery
covering their laps; sick
mothers to care for, no
children of their own.
Leaning out of windows,
some give a toothy smile
rubbing their ram's prick
along the sills
and there is no stopping
how their bodies move.
Some stay with their women
all evening, completely
unbroken like water
off a duck's back, and I tell you
it is frightening to hear breath
coming faster.