Behind me, a chalkboard. Every now and then,
Tapping and scuffing, a furry impatience
Blind to me. Pebbles roll down a scarp
Toward repose. Whiteness presiding
Over lakes. Ice sawed into blocks
And harvested with giant tongs,
Hauled in a wagon of sawdust.
Drays pulling, hurrying uphill
To get it over with.
The clink of the harness, the creak of iron shoes
Through snow. The driver removes a pipe
From his pocket, strikes a match.
I present the subject matter
Though the students are already elsewhere
And the horses’ breath chills my neck.
Bread wearing a shadow,
A yesterday with loose gems.
Pins are available, also clamps
For when drying is required.
The porridge isn’t getting any younger.
A woman pretends to take pictures.
No film, no armature. Only memory
A mood breaks into a locked car.
An alarm sounds, an unbearable headache.
We arrive, trailed by officials,
Pose among trees of record
Next to a shack with the ends of our lives
Inside, resisting arrest.
Where It Was
City on the plateau,
In the hands of the rainy season.
Workers walked its sewers holding light bulbs
Protected by cages. Loudness said,
“It is raining.” Everything down there
I left my house,
Looking toward a hidden river
In cahoots with emptiness.
“Sonsa” is the word in Spanish.
I heard it applied to me.
I visited the seashore, a fort
Green at the edges. The sky unmarked,
Thinking itself distant. “Nothing is straight
In the sea,” it said.
I visited a cave which once was a Consumption
Hospital, its tombstones, letters
Waiting to be folded. One of them says,
“We are arrived at Mammoth. The doctor
Has a house in the town but visits each day
And listens to our coughs.”
What Happens to Women
Hours of women
Tie up herds of tamales and polish
The skyscrapers of the potent.
The radiant forceful bodies of women
Float beatifically through the poetry
Of Kahlil Gibran,
Wander half-crazed mountains,
Find flowers hiding other flowers,
Bears stuck to each other with sleep.
At six p.m., an indigo of women
Flow south across London Bridge.
Cufflinks sweep past
In knowledgeable black cabs.
Orpheus’s lyre, plucking by itself,
Plays across seas, destroyers following it,
Fish following it, a snafu of tornados,
Hailstorms, northern lights.
Euridice listens, listens not.
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, Possession, 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, and Best American Poetry, among other publications.