Angela Ball

Four Poems

Profession

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.

Learning

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,PossessionQuartet 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 YorkerPloughshares, the New RepublicPoetry, andBest American Poetry, among oth­er pub­li­ca­tions.