divination by predicting weather change or reading the future strength and
direction of the wind
Along the road’s pitch, a token of yellow moths—the auburn river’s warning tool— electricity between wing and crescent, where reeds open the mailbox’ flag. As for the matter
of your father’s death. I observe a signet ring lower into the dim. I signal in conscious dream that day’s influence where I crossed into a calm holding his hand— what bereavement became—a percussion of bullets bore his chest in the faithful matter of betrayal. No more ledgers.
But a bowl’s moss and mixed grain, a morning without generation, a narcoleptic close of eye like envelopes.
Once I stopped talking. Once I was love’s weak redundancy. Did I not say no? I did not say yes. My hair undoes the lake’s ether.
Each Tuesday we feature audio or video of an SR Contributor reading their work. Today we’re proud to feature a podcast by Maureen Alsop.
Maureen Alsop, Ph.D. is the author of Mirror Inside Coffin (forthcoming, Cherry Grove Collections), Mantic (Augury Books, 2013), Apparition Wren (Main Street Rag), and several chapbooks. Her poems have appeared in various journals including Watershed Review, Your Impossible Voice, ditch, The Laurel Review, AGNI, Blackbird, Tampa Review, Action Yes, Drunken Boat, The Kenyon Review, and Verse Daily.
The day you died we cut off three slips of your hair, as is the custom. I asked myself if grief’s capacity, in part, is joy for its certainty. And because there is now an actual hour between the hour, it is my recompense. Together we’d been versions of “gathering and stopping.” Breath volunteered its kind-hearted calmness; you’d found that going was up to the touch. Eventually we are all in such a position as you once were. I know you tried hard. It made you quicken. The rain chased you with its cool evidence, its mythmaking clarity. Moss inscribed, you were evidently lungs and nouns and the last plot upon which no one could center. Maybe the physicality of sound, a surround of the inordinate laughter, was compost to make a new story. You were the last word I could cook for food.
And I have loved the top view of your weathers, criss-crossing the spaces just long enough to swim among your underbody’s chill, the soul’s photons buried in a passing train. When this is you. The point we begin a gallery of leaves, a river of light spaces just long enough to be remembered, shuffled images pooled. Or because I remember thinking of the point at which there would be no waiting, I might sit gathering the full stop of us.
Either way, all my protections go unmeasured. There is a miniscule grotto inside my heart, where votives remain lit, a scrim of bird-oil sullies the glass. I am a tracing of veins on your temples in the mirror. Opening a new woman in the glass. So I say to myself, so saying to you, as if you were another—well this is one way that we might continue to speak—So that I might go outside into the world soon and love only this other.
Until we are automatic. Eventually we dream a deeper black, behind the workings of smooth numbers, variant windows. In the end you would reveal you were both the carrier and interpreter of dreams. Scarred only at the center of intuition, I was the myth of what you had hidden.
I gathered a sense of how the human face demands rooms by which to mark calendars, then I made record of whose singing was enough. When my flock was sent to the egress, it seemed as if hundreds of horses traversed the open grassland. When somehow I’d followed back into the mire, their quick crescent-shaped steps; when I stood, somehow stalled; a sense of the last ghost was conveyed to me as a guide.
The redirection that I thought I agreed to was a tendency. Infrastructure impaired by vibration and extinguishment. Visually loyal to the mind of the learner, smoke-tree’s drop a euphoric identity. This is clinical to their nature. A luggage of small leaves, signal images, crucial imitations which wood-pigeons sing.
I didn’t survive the horse’s synchrony.
Yesterday, having returned from the dialect, opening from the trance of my small death, I read the dull arrangement, solving what had gone extinct under quivering waters. The studded plains were small studied voices; the activity of convergence, an eluded dialogue. Listening offered charms, a prod of trinkets. Those who I met through the stubble, over the canyon’s platinum topography asked me into the kill of winter. This is what I took from the landscape. As if collections of pebbles become administrative, communal. Rescue by rescue, someone will be worth the trawl.
What did I carry, asking the years I loved to be held in bottles slung from strings around my neck?
I cannot begin with a metaphor. Who you were in pieces? It was insistent work, quickened by observation. But hadn’t we been warned? What we saw was not the same as what we understood. I tried to find every person in the wrong so that I would recognize my true hallow. When will you choose to know me? Will you linger there? Will the great pull of air around you do the same? Will the cold fall away from the underbody? Then as you are telling, in brimstone, the lies that you tell the liars, then will you remember the advantages we shared?
Perhaps now I am your empire. You who created me with openings through time. I will not clear this of you. I followed you as well as I could through silver corridors, entered the topmost valley of the sky, beyond the whole of the sun. You wore gloves. Christmas snow pasted its voluminous pages over alleys, oxen. You were among spindled volumes of wool- season’s ornamentation.
Clay layerings, my internal pigeons were indiscriminate. The flowering self, smaller, frozen. Yeah, it was fine, I guess.
Here I am looking upon a page upon which a woman is looking into font as if drawn to what is real. The emergence of idealizing eyes fall upon trees, trenchant her distance, the mount of her sea smooth iris. Firs, the willow, are perfect listeners. Real silence traces change from the darkened corners of her composed mouth. Snow covets the lilies, thickly astonished. You are so near.
I trace the river which breathes through our sleep. I guard the given valley.
Sometimes I breathe a reversal, your mind winding back, sacred and unaccustomed to place. Sometimes we are modestly smaller than our disappearing
But if this were to be read aloud, as I read it, I begin to imagine our love has been like connectivities beneath the grass, indeterminate voices buried, splice the whole of the inland together. I displace myself so I might be true to the wrong words. Among tangled patterns we shift between gullies, grassland, mountainous- irregular swoon. Birth-heavy. At times we were fired. Sardonic, we are sinister in tone.
The sojourners tried designating the world to the darkness to reflect the way I am. Then they created their protections.
When did I unclench their papers?
I was adorned again. That hiddenness made open. The spoils of my old self were dragged to the hilltop.
To be criticized I was percussive, and I refused to hide my dead. Untutored were the examined trees above me. Punctual trees, heavy and ridden by snow’s asymmetry. Perhaps this was how I developed my sensitivity for unsteady measure. No there. This half-silver unbroken palate, blue gradient of midheaven.
Bright was my disappointment to summon what might already be perceived. Grief’s compression & renewal were not wedded to the things I fed you.
LUGHNASADH: LA FEILL MOIRE. HE SAID “I RECONCILE LOVE’S ENDURANCE BECAUSE LOVE IS NOT COVERT.” I WONDERED. WITH ME I TOOK HIS VISAGE. THERE WAS NOTING SHY BETWEEN US NOW.
I already gave you a plan. Heliocentric smoke signals. Sunwise. Sojourner, I told you you must shut the one sparrow within your mouth. Shut within vesper, the whole of the afternoon. You knew without doubt the incomplete animal I’d become. Small vice, my delusion. You multiplied the consequence of the dead. You whispered it. You blessed fields. Among patterns in my voice you tarried. I followed your irregular direction, the necessary fragment, later knives and trees. You appeared to pass among those I loved. Quickly you offered blight. Bright hawks as a swift shimmering geometric. Spotted leaves you encouraged among maples. What supplication must failure bring me. Your location’s trail permits a cold grace. My feck of immunity, your air.
Presently the empire recedes; we are corrected or we are alone. Presently I am part of the dog pack at the end of table. No, we may no longer go to the caves no matter how they please us. I saw myself shine. I saw an airiness beyond me. I saw that You were walking inside the map, unburdened. That time when the narrow depth of the water bore us. My message was the need for truth. I filled a bucket with coins and gave my gatherings to the soldiers. Inconsolable that every pinch of flower-shaped flame might loosen from me. Where might I keep the small armatures. Once there was myself and that was “identity.”
Without my armor I accepted the lashing. There of the mind, a mind mislead by spring’s snowpink landscape, my mouth paralleled the descent of soused kestrels shaped by April rain, as my rigorous objective became the utterance of failure. Still I continued to explain. We’d made a pact, buried plastic morphine vials in the sand, read the status of waves from our impaired instruments. Our aspersions were the little spaces between each crest. Waves by which we floated in houseboats. Waves in which loose doors slammed back and forth in the wind. Waves, beyond which we could see pine groves, and a harbor entry where love’s limited aspects alluded to channels of reflection and echo. But the waves were her breath and we were watching her die. Her transience, not air, traveled cavernous passages through stone. Hardwood walls and nagahyde sofas offered us optimism. We’d been fools for the other country.
Our seven mouths hurt. Of teeth our hurt bore jaws clenching—where down within us and ourselves staring back up outside of us. Buoyancy started as “I” upon the lips. This fragment was both worthy and necessary. Later phonebooks, trees, all papery sounds mingled. A new brokerage of skin. I assigned ideas to the sound’s currents. Every silver scaled horn. Every owl. I said listen longhaired one, listen beholden transient. Eat your crust. Belch marrow. In every pith-white-immaculate-clairvoyant room you must press your lips to wall. Hear, some version of a cockroach. Foreground. Seaweed sound. All this against the luminous glare. What have you declared? Contact with a suddenness in unison. What have you declared? The root of my beauty is a lion’s tuft. Tricky one. So casual, so clinical. Because the dark lifted leaving a silver mottled snow. I was told to live for awhile in the hallway where the roots hold the rafters in place.
That evening we wore our best country vestments, hair shirts and tweed jackets. We looked at ourselves as foreigners. Our voices separated the air with apostrophes. We thought we recognized her voice in the distance. We drank Bourbon from Styrofoam cups. We were given permission to touch the violet strangle of her hair. Her sunlight scented skin. Our Egrets shaped silhouettes offered gawky silence. In her absence we collaborated with what we knew of instruction. We deployed filters to exhume long-term memories of pachysandra riverbanks. Moss leached our veins. Why did no one greet us? Why were the letters in our last name the wrong shape? Meaning we didn’t know who we belonged to anymore.
Upon her cremation Fire’s accusation followed me. Garlands of wheat-yellow smoke stained my words into an inarticulate tangle. My tentative remedy was a sideways embroidery, stitchery of her face through long closeted collections of soft cotton dresses, walking shoes, stacks of bills.
I curtseyed the smolder, it’s geranium flavored boughs, it’s purple cockscomb, attic of shadows, I passed its notes downward through the mythology of my body’s cells. It’s processional of blue torchlit horns and grumbled flowers hungered for my grandfather’s early death, forgiveness. I would not be smothered by its loudly sarcastic joy. Apprentice I was, not inexperienced. I remain incrementally equipped.
Joan’s Letter to Mr. Jones; After the Fire Festival On the Feast Day of Mary of the Candles
Dear Mr. Jones,
Forsythias’ impossibly small blossoms were promised, but these mouthed back, earthward—yes because something is happening here but you don’t know what it is, do you Mister Jones¹. What body part, what geography— indecipherable, my finger’s archipelago strums uncertain foliage where a second season moves through me unacknowledged. Today when I stood in the street, I felt my shadow burn its betrayal through the pavement. I recognized my heart’s sobriety as a true misfit. I wanted to tell my old lovers that they could all stand next to me. That the draining of blood from their lips was anger, not abandonment. I wanted to explain to them, shoulder to shadow, that when they passed through the waters, I would be with them; and when they passed through rivers they would not be overwhelmed. When they walked through fire, as in my song², they would not be burned³, they would be bridegrooms. They would not be strangers unrecognized by flame. Of all the things I wanted, the one thing I wanted most was to create the past differently. Mr. Jones, I fear my own interpretation of self as selfless. As if once given I will be permanently troubled. My words cross through the law. Our children will gossip, live with dreams knotted to the back of their throat; the air in their next century will be thin, their voices misunderstood, they will pray as if to a secretly dressed tribe whose image will be found sealed in stale envelopes. It might be someone like this who blesses us?
¹ Bob Dylan, “Ballad of a Thin Man” from Highway 61 Revisited
² “My Song” refers to Leonard Cohen’s “Joan of Arc”
³ Isaiah 43:2
Thank you to Marcia LeBeau for the inspiration/impetus
Requiescat, Self-Portrayal at Samhain: Spiritisim is Annunciation, You Thought You Were An Opera Singer
You are engaging a meditation on your death. Perhaps you broke the law, but it was an old law, a lost aria, unenforced. You are held in the residue and ascetic disaffiliation. Sleep’s epitaph, your eyes guarded by sixpence, silvered shine of wolfhounds. At the feast, they set a place for you among the dead. Cold stars languish under your crane-skin dress. Hornet’s nest kept in your hair’s gust. Inexplicable speech. Moth light over gray meadow. You taste the hum in the walls where mule stood over the glass riverbank. Sparrow stasis. For each animal there is a trade. There is a wormhole upon the forehead, bonfire constellations, maggot conscience. You’d been walked between bonfire’s remains, the dappled throng. Through the small barn window you saw the blistered flank of the fur-licked cattle.
Belief in the body is attempted, form found without words, form given. Leaving the mind starts out as a little joke. Here, Spiritism is a woman riding a colt; the space toward which she is moving is an immeasurable dark. How did you think things would improve? She gives night the permission to erase the host. Your architectures had always been enough, and perfectly therein.