Anca Vlasopolos (Ph.D., U of Michigan) is Professor of English at Wayne State University, where she has been Director of the Comparative Literature Program and the Women's Studies Program. She is the author of The Symbolic Method of Coleridge, Baudelaire, and Yeats (Wayne State UP, 1983), a chapbook of poetry entitled The Evidence of Spring, a detective novel entitled Missing Members, and a forthcoming collection of poetry entitled Through the Straits, at Large.
After Italian chefs had crossed the Alps
the French, impressed, called that delectable puff
vol au vent. Infoliate like the promise of damask
rose in bud lay two hundred nightingales' tongues
for kings without voice who needed to own song.
She tells me of an Italian neighbor who snares
with seed—and lime on nearby branches—passerine travelers.
Some he keeps to love to death in his garage, others he pockets
for transatlantic trips to cage, to sell, to eat?
back behind the Alps.
Caught in summer heat, again I cannot sleep.
Under this roof of pitch and tar I try to close my ears
against the tearing at the bars, wings' useless beat
for depths of northern woods,
and think, ah, peasant cruelty bred
in the stifling village.
But villages don't breed. One at least
brought out the man
who crisscrossed the Alps, his writings,
his ever-unfinished paintings, not unlike the pendular
arcs of these migrations that measure out our sphere.
He, they say, a village son and guest of hungry kings,
paid for cages upon cages,
then, rara avis, sprang open the doors, stood back
to study flight.
Cause of Death
They will say, if you get there without other
they will say it was the chocolate, the coffee,
the way you spent hours gazing out the window
instead of jogging,
they will slice the wafer of pleasure ever more thin
even into insubstantiation
They will not say, how often did you die, was your child lost, did she
on the tip of syringe filled with Lethe
crumple like an annual in first deep frost, was
it your touch, knowing already what it could not find,
on your mother's wrist, or
the couple of times at least when (and we won't mention
others you passed carapaced however fragile the shell)
cars came so close
you steadied yourself against air
your hand dragged in the cars' wake taking
the body to
one more feigned end
This We Have Wrought
Anger divides and grows, cancerous cells.
Fingers burn holes in the newspaper.
Eyes bore through skulls, broil brains.
Voices raise a hurricane
no TV miracle preacher knows
how to divert.
They pierce the stratosphere, melting the poles.
Toxic-waste trucks fall off highways, tanks cracked.
Warmed earth pushes up lead coffins
like bloated corpses after the flood.
Oceans release caskets rim-filled with by-products
that roll, roll on breakers with the tides
and dead whales.
Out of caskets beached
the great djinn seep
in slow but furious smoke.
This time they recognize no Aladdin,
They cover the sun.
Today my horoscope says, "Call your parents."
Almost instantly I think, internet, bitnet, hyperspace,
cyberspace—somehow these invisible threads
spun over the globe as if each thought grew
into a parallel, a meridian, a time zone, seasonal
index, as if at last thoughts were winged, traversed
faithful, precise, like migratory birds.
But where at, I want to ask my horoscope, since
these messengers I uncage even without starry prompting
each day take wing
bearing my little envelopes of chat, pleas, thanks,
pressed flowers already falling apart
and fail to return, they themselves not knowing
where to alight, swallowed by the grey-blue
of an infinitely displeased horizon or merely
the indifferent blank screen.