Home > Words of Power > Divinations


October 23, 2009

by Maureen Alsop


Stasis in winter is your belief in a window. From it you see the black maple spackles a hospital’s brick wall into aubergine. The glass of the window carries the yellow glaze of traffic, the whorl of crimson wing tips, the slop of salt-water. Up high in the elms, light disappears, the bark of a bird dips among the red thrash of leaves.

The voice of three ships circle the harbor. Where a small house on the shore is made real by the sun. That you would bury your song. That you would go keyless into the sound of locks. That you were not human. That there would be no one to ask. But that you needed to ask in order to live.

Trucks excite grasses over the field. The skulls of unnamed birds lay scattered through mulberry. Ravens nest in the plum blossom. There is a ticking in the mind that thorns and unfurls into thistle. You still struggle but do not see what’s gone. Capturing no hand you pray in fear you don’t want to tell of your god-approximate to whom nothing is spoken… You invite the rain   bear scat   egg peel of nut hatch. Once   you ask yourself why stumble. Ask yourself   gentle   why laugh. You’re not special. You’re not not special. A worn thing. Falls here all around you. There is no comfort in language. Real words are soundless. But you gather no words.

Sometimes you believe you still hear him. But when you speak of his voice you close the window to the ocean for the last time.


She will not hear snowflakes wild splatter into the strewn patches of cord grass. Winter’s muck along the pond’s edge, a mix of fawn tracks and duck droppings, freezes under the long white lines of her legs. There will be a twinge in her upper spine. There will be wet black flames drying in her braids. She moves through this air that is stunned by her heat. She regrets the passing of light, her Coppertone lathered face gleams like gold leaf. Her grandmother’s wedding ring, now a spiral of seeds, pinwheels her marrow. Fractured spindles know no other cheek to kiss. Weathered witness, have courage. The coffee on the nightstand remains a clammy taste of seawater. She has spliced the last of her father’s voice on the phone, three nights before his death, with the first bloom of yarrow. Her dusk phrases have buried all the songbirds. But the brine white hills will not blind. She opens each unfamiliar door between offerings. And lets there be no after thought.


Tonight an artist disemboweled a 100 year old Milton Piano. He thinks he is of the ‘Pianist’ tribe; a Native American tribe name given not to themselves, but designated men who smashed their pianos into dust as they headed west. I listened to the last songs of the yellow notes float, not into the sound of weeping, but into a room where branches of linden oaks covered the walls. A boat overturns into the ironweed thicket. A dock lies buried under mustard rows. A horse stumbles in inches of water brown as beer bottle. Unnamed blood lily. At dawn I wish my neighbor’s window unto an eastern lake. Accordingly, the sun thins the afternoon into silent declaration.


Someone spills water over your hand. Tonight the bridge will be sawed in half. Under the guise of raw wood, your immaculate room shines. Under no sun. Gilt stones fill the thorax. Under the beams grow weeds, grow fever. Rainwater errata Under the problem of phones, because mostly there are none. Under the planks of the splintered dock your car keys swim the harbor. Under your keel shaped sternum. Piles of medallions and crosses bloat the thrift shop. The clovers repeat a swell of bees. Under the press of a wet nightshirt’s gauze. Under the red palm. Lady, your gold threads are slashes. Under the touch of an old lover. Under the sparrows stain. Under the memory of the message that filled an entire tape on your answering machine. Geranium florets blossom your breasts. The deep white seams of you, space between lanterns.


Soul, most recent of animals, your lost papers fill the closet. I would not notice your soft intrusion. But for the vignette edge of the landscape, where your face is an accident without origin. I see you have been here all along. Let me tell you, things can happen in the years. Last winter a squirrel died in the cabin chimney. There is no single script. Only the last of three orders of breath made before silence. Night has given me my wide addiction. Under uncertain laws, in the sleep of no choice, I follow motivations downward into the sweep of your pen. Scrawled lights of a new city wink between rows of tamarisk. The center of the book is a catastrophe, but with love there is a lack of distance. You have led me into the first threshold of your vision. Jupiter glows through a ragweed thicket. There is no body. No sound. You go on without calculation for the beginning. You go on under the lowering of gravity. Tonight the oncoming boxcar whistles your unfolding music.

Download the podcast

Maureen Alsop is the author of Apparition Wren (Main Street Rag), The Diction of Moths (Ghost Road Press, pending) and several chapbooks, most recently Luminal Equation in the collection Narwhal (Cannibal Press, 2009) and the dream and the dream you spoke (Spire Press). She is the winner of Harpur Palate’s Milton Kessler Memorial Prize for Poetry and The Bitter Oleander’s Frances Locke Memorial Poetry Award. Her recent poems have appeared various journals including Blackbird, Front Porch Journal, AGNI, Tampa Review, and New Delta Review.

Categories: Words of Power Tags:
%d bloggers like this: