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.


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.

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.

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.

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?

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.”

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.

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.”

is all.

i love my house but i long for a moat.

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.