Diane Wald

Two Poems

Annus Miserabilis

It was the year Peter O’Toole died,
but that wasn’t the worst of it.

Everything scared me,
yet I was brave.

My house demand­ed
I take a vow of silence.

I dreamed of a man on a bus
who said I would nev­er sur­vive.

One rock in our yard was per­pet­u­al­ly moist
in spite of the ter­ri­ble drought.

I could always see through you,
but I would not look.

The red tree died.
The blue tree died.

Poems that once made me hap­py
made me hap­py no more.

When I closed my eyes
I could still see bil­lows of lava.

Worse, though, were the drunks con­fess­ing
their drunk­en­ness to the wind.

And worst of all my ele­giac swan
trans­gress­ing my veins like a white drug in autumn.

echolo­ca­tion

1.
did you buy me rasp­ber­ries?
i did not ask, but i did cov­et.
i have lost some­thing impor­tant, but it is some­where in my house.
while look­ing for it, i’ve found oth­er impor­tant things.
a great deal of clear liq­uid
turn­ing slow­ly to ice.
what i can­not locate is that pho­to­graph of you
tak­en while you were on the stage.
what i have found are oth­er pho­tographs,
some in black and white,
and some in frames. i have tak­en these
and thrown them against the wind
the eas­i­er to find their mean­ing.

in no case has a pho­to­graph returned.

2.
years ago
the vole in the pantry saved
our mar­riage. he saw some­thing in you
i’d lost sight of, still some­times
can­not see. i knew i could nev­er take him away
to live else­where.

3.
my broth­er says he has 82 hands and 57 feet
that cre­ate their own sto­ry line. i tell him i dream
of the house in ram­sey, the house in ridge­wood, and still,
every now and then, the house on the riv­er
that he nev­er saw, which the mud­man and i almost rent­ed
before learn­ing about the annu­al floods.
at flakeman’s house in the cup-and-saucer state
i was turned away – or, not pre­cise­ly, but i did have to wait
to knock on the door until the duchess was away.
then i was invit­ed in
to wan­der with him the rose-knot­ted yard
bril­liant­ly tiled in still­ness and hung with vines.

4.
who will advise
about the glut of sand in leeks? who knows how hard
a per­son can sleep? i’m in the black lodge
with dale coop­er.
no one can take our souls.
what is that sound
if not the trance of snow shift­ing?

5.
last night there were five sharp knocks in the mid­dle of the clock.
at what hour?
knocks on wood or met­al?
wak­ing me up, but i knew there were five.
and i could not explain them.
some­one, while dis­cussing her appoint­ment, said, “can’t stum­ble well, and now
can’t stum­ble even at all. i’m through.”
i said, “be care­ful. try not to break
the light­bulb in your pock­et.”

6.
i am con­cerned about
the astro­naut love tri­an­gle.
a moth has fall­en
into the dish of oil
i put out for the bread, and floats
among the spices
like a minia­ture sail­boat upset
by minia­ture weath­er.
i heard
strange talk of you and what you said.

8.
it’s just a twist of the peach.
don’t look.
there are some things you will just nev­er see any­way
like snow on spi­der­webs.
but the floaters, and the latent scary oth­er flaws – no. i don’t find them.
i slop myself to sleep with the mantra “don’t wor­ry. everything’s fine.”
and tell myself lat­er, when the mantra’s not work­ing, “just don’t look
where you’ll see it.”

per­cep­tion
is all.

i love my house but i long for a moat.

10.
pearl relics
are or were for sale on ebay. sari­ra. sub­tle bod­ies.
and in the film are des­ig­nat­ed as such clear signs. the search­ing monk says
they do not belong
to the “quite fat­ty-fat­ty” child
because his father’s name does not begin with “a.”
he says “give me your hand” and
“do you rec­og­nize this rosary? this bell?”
and the child does. the cor­rect child.
some of the vil­lagers
had nev­er trav­eled on or even seen an air­plane
but the child was not afraid, and the young monk said
that in his (the child’s)
pre­vi­ous incar­na­tion
he placed a wilt­ed flower behind the young monk’s ear
when he was sleep­ing. wikipedia tells us
the appear­ance of these arti­facts
will have a ten­den­cy to be noticed by those who are look­ing for them,
so i go and check the only ash­es of a liv­ing being
i have in this house.
but find no pearls.

~

Diane Wald’s lat­est book is Wonderbender, from 1913 Press. Previous books include The Yellow Hotel and Lucid Suitcase.