07 September 2014

The riddle of a storefront


by David Keplinger


            The only soul                      who beatifies itself
             is the lightening bug                      of North America

also called firefly               also called
Half-in-love                                     with-dusty-death

also called slant-                 of-light also known
as Hobo-who-believes-he's-Jesus

and You-                              oh-my-soul
which announces                            its coming greased

with luceferin: Never         venerate yourself
in the presence                                of children

is the lesson here                the flashing timed
metronomically                             which enables the child

to track you                         to follow the rhythm
snap his fist                                   and squeeze

It was a language of white hills, red brick towns.
An alley was a comma in the agony's grammar.
It was the old one tied against a chair, madness swelling like a thought
too big for her head, and each death was a period. The mortician
a stain, a drop of ink in his black suit, before
a page-white mausoleum. It was a language
of yeast soup, snowy hills, towns called Beauty and Cold,
where even the names of things had a kind of corresponding
order, beauty always going cold, always losing itself
to something permanent. There was fish at the fishmonger,
paper at the paper store. Time at the clockmaker's shop.
There were syntactical surprised: the headmaster turned janitor 
in a matter of a day, the ambassador
seen on the subway in tattered clothes, the president
dressed as a prisoner, delivering his acceptance speech,
the secret police dressed as tourists on their own beat.
But mostly it was a language one used when speaking
in a whisper, rolling the “R,” practicing the “R” in your mouth
until it dropped from the palette to the tongue
as from the pocket of God, and hung there momentarily
in its shiny majesty, a sound much older than the language
that spent it, that offered it from mouth
to mouth like money.

A City I'm Traveling To
No solution hath the riddle of a storefront.
Its awnings billow up in wind and light
The waiters in their tiny jackets pull
Their jackets sown against the sudden cold.
A servant bears a latched up trunk, ruefully,
ruefully! And a certain old woman is waiting
To sell me a flower: to offer it with one hand,
To cover her teeth with the other.

From The American Poetry Review, September-October 2014.

1 comment:

  1. You're beginning to renew my faith in contemporary poetry. Thanks!


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