In town to read from her new book
A woman goes to dinner with her former professor—
The star who had intimidated everyone
With his formidable assignments.
In the elegant restaurant, they talk long
About Europe, music, his life since retirement.
At the end, she says, “Thrilling to see you
Again—you were such a great teacher.”
At a conference she sees a former fellow student.
Both of them published now—he a very fine writer—
Good feeling between them. He walks,
Turns back to look again.
He sees them two sticks in a field. Two
Lashed together with twine, dressed
To deflect a bird.
In Veracruz I saw a showroom for caskets, very shiny.
A young couple stood talking on the sidewalk:
“I would like the purple one,”
–“And I the white.”
I walked past with groceries, including a puffy bag
Of Pan Bimbo. Most festive name
For something plain, rivaled only
By Dinky Butter of Colombia.
Workers perched on a house shouted,
“Hello little short fat one.” I was tall, thin.
I knew enough not to smoke
On the street,
But not enough to understand
I should avoid having a boyfriend,
That five hundred years of custom
Would draw its polished sword.
I had enough to learn
Just from the ocean, meeting it at dawn.
Its fishermen and their scrim of boat,
Somber gray within gray.
The staring white of its fizz.
Original Eye-Fixation Hypnotic Induction Method (Nervous Sleep)
In Whirlpool (1949), Jose Ferrer hypnotizes himself
So he can get out of bed. Americans are hypnotized by telescopic vistas,
British by Cemetery Road. Mothballs hypnotize mink.
Serifs hypnotize pale smooth monuments.
Steamer trunks hypnotize the last relics of the genteel.
Brains hypnotize memory selectively, as a viola’s bow
Hypnotizes certain strings. Urine hypnotizes the statue of Benito Juarez,
And women chewing deerskins until ready for use.
Voodoo hypnotizes the consortium of rude intimacies.
As the tunnel does the train
So do the pants hypnotize the belt.
Hypnotism approves of the black bars across the eyes
Of patients enshrined in the book of diagnoses.
Hypnotism disapproves of a mattress dangling from a cliff
And a last meal of sparrow’s teeth.
Hypnotism reaches into the moon for oars, tinctures, gongs.
Coming-backness hypnotizes never-happening-again.
The unfinished hypnotizes the yet-to-arrive.
A road zooms through an alley of cedars.
The sun snaps its fingers.
Task at Hand
Leaving the country involved passing through
Other people’s apartments, then riding in loose elevators
That banged to a stop.
I began walking, on highways that suddenly
Had U.S. badges.
Later, while shopping with money given
By a lover, I met another lover of his.
“I can’t find anything I like,” I said. And,
“You know, he is ill and could die
At any time.” Red silk trailed around us,
Prehensile belts. The salesperson
Offered a strawberry.
I set about building a new routine.
Blunting its spikes.
Angela Ball is professor of English in the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi and poetry editor for Mississippi Review. She is the author of five poetry collections, including The Museum of the Revolution: 58 Exhibits, Quartet and Night Clerk at the Hotel of Both Worlds, as well as two chapbooks. She is the recipient of grants from the Mississippi Arts Commission and the NEA, and is a former poet-in-residence at the University of Richmond. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, the New Republic, Poetry, andBest American Poetry, among other publications.