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Winter 2005, Volume 22.2

Poetry

Myrna Stone

Photo of Myrna Stone.

Myrna Stone's poems have recently appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Nimrod, Barrow Street, River Styx, Black Warrior Review, and Quarterly West. She has received Fellowships from the Ohio Arts Council and Vermont Studio Center, and is the author of The Art of Loss, a collection of poetry published by Michigan State University Press in 2001.

See other work by Myrna Stone published in Weber Studies:  2002 poetry.

 

On the Occasion of Your Marriage

What are the young lovers? Two souls,
Which is to say a flowing and a flowing…

                      —Robert Pinsky

What else but two souls
and the intransigent freight of the heart
clarifying every moment of your isolation

until, in a single moment,
everything was changed: the season's
early pall of dusk, the bar's opaque,

smoky air, a curtain lifted,
and beyond it, revealed to you even then
as a kind of grace, your first glimpse

of the other. What else
but a flowing, in which you, my beloved
son, immerse yourself, the breadth

and depth of your spirit,
as your bride immerses her own, making
of yourselves and one another father,

mother, intimate and lover,
your power, your weaknesses, the flux
of your separate natures, the gifts you offer.

And what else but this
communion, which we who cherish you now
witness, as we have each part of your story,

having seen in you
the odd equation of love, how all along
you were one and one becoming one.

 

The Penitent Magdalen

Oil on canvas, 1638-43,

La Tour has placed her at a table
in a moment of reflection, half-in, half-out
of the light, her hands

interlocked on the knop of the human skull
in her lap, her cheek and chin, the chaste
expanse of her breast

beneath her chemise, suffused in the illusory
flame of a candle that kindles her looking glass
and cast-off pearls,

the cinnabar silk of her Damascene petticoat,
her face unreadable, a cipher he has turned
three-quarters away

toward the abrupt spatial barrier of a blank
and blackened wall. And even in this darkened
print, this deep librarious

dusk, he argues that she is his brightest luminary—
duly flagellated and shriven, freed from
the heady locutions

of lust, from the rapacious touch of husbands
and lovers—a spiritual emissary, a sweet
amnesiac, forgetful

of the long and jealous memory of flesh,
and capable still of converting us
and taking us in.

 

The Piano Lesson

Think of it as a scene in a play
in which, outwardly, nothing extraordinary happens,
the stage's suggestion of doorway,

of porch and eaves, portal
to the drawing room and the anteroom beyond,
to the spectacle of daffodils in delft

vases arranged on the mantel,
to the bench, and the instrument, grand and baroque,
to the actors assembled, over whom

the Gothic arch of a window
sifts its allotted light. Think of it as a scene in which
nothing is quite as it seems: the girl,

in her prim parochial skirt and blouse,
rising from the bench, exiting the French doors
and latching them, half-sitting,

half-reclining in a green hassock
in the anteroom's dark, while her brother, seated
in her place, waits for the woman

to tap out on the arm of her chair
a signal to begin. Look at the woman, so elegant
and deliberate, who will monitor each

measure while her heart expands,
as it has every day for decades, in expectation
of her beloved. Think of her beloved,

the unseen character Harley,
who has stepped out, off-stage, from the entrance
of his hardware store, into the street

where his hand, as though automated,
flutters unwittingly up to the seizure in his chest….
Shall I tell you that the scene

lacks dialogue, is weighted only
with the eloquence of silence, with the melancholy
of longing that for months has produced

in the boy a distracted expression,
a daily regimen of walks through the fields to the banks
of the river? Think of how, in rural Ohio,

in spring, there are all sorts
of awakenings, then look at the girl, younger and no less
innocent than her brother, who lounges

in a heated bodily trance there
in the shadows, who is filling up now, like these rooms,
with music, from the inside out.

 

Orison to an Owl

It is, finally, your voice, isolate
and desirous, that draws us to this dusk

of woodland and bramble, this locus
of shadow beneath the walnut's arc of light

and leaf. Yet here, too, you are nothing
if not spirit, a presence that compels us

to silence, to our knees to sift the earth
for talismans and signs, to embrace

darkness, and come the sun, find no
relief… O animus of evening, O shim

of horn and feather, of talon and beak,
you who have launched a thousand myths,

what oblation, what felter of flesh
and bristle, must we offer now?

 

To the Men I Never Slept With

Forgive my belated expression
of affection, and my surprise

at your presence at my first time
with Tom, the man for whom

you plied the way, who succeeds
you still; surely, in the decades

since our last brief impositions,
we've come to understand flesh

is but an implement for the organ
that, in delight and in dread, gives

and withholds. Yet never doubt
that I desired you: in a theater

in Boulder and a booth at Jolin's,
in rooms in Ada and a barn near

Minster, you remain perpetually
able to stir me…. Dear Jeffrey,

dear Vanny and James, dearer
Jerry B. and Jerry P., forgive me

if I cannot, in all conscience, call
ours love stories (yes, my heart's

a stone that ever sinks and rises)
but be assured you taught me first

the nature of the body's ambition.
It is for that reason that I write.

 

At Wethersfield Burial Ground

Leafwork and bonework is want
tangible as the antiquated diction
tourists trace from the slate stones
on the hill at the back of the church.

Tangible as the antiquated diction
a maple in the autumn air is burning
on the hill at the back of the church
branch by branch down to its essence.

A maple in the autumn air is burning
red and red in the late morning light
branch by branch down to its essence
of pith and sap, vein and marrow.

Red and red in the late morning light
bodies go down painted and emptied
of pith and sap, vein and marrow.
Leafwork and bonework is want.

 
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