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James Magorian



A train whistle.
The stones wallow in thawing clay.
And what can tree rings tell me
that I don’t already know?

Third of July.
Band practice in the park.
Box of flares stolen.

I blow a kiss to him—
gesture (not burdensome) that
he can keep for a rainy day
: cherish, reinterpret if necessary.

We bunch at the water barrel.
Rim of dipper: the slime
of a hundred mouths.

The farmhands blaspheme, roughhouse, eruct.
I envy their camaraderie.
Their shortcuts like a letter
taped to the bottom of a drawer.

I melt (Hessian crucible) the tin first,
add lead into it: lead liable to
oxidize if melted alone.
Their bones can be seen from a great distance.
I stir with an iron rod, sprinkle in
bismuth powder.

Seedpods on the sunlit edge of the pond.
I stir green water with a stick.
Blurred mud where the turtle enters.
Skip of strider, beetle, dragonfly.
I hook cables to the levers (brazed joints)
on the end of the torque shaft, using
clevis bolts in the shackles.
The water opens and the strider vanishes.

Sprouty potatoes, blue sparks on bread.

In a high wind a juggler hands me his Indian clubs.

And what’s one more missing
factory girl to this town?

Clank of hammers.
They spike the switch, return
to main track—hot on their heels
: the finishing gang
with shovels and tamping bars,
adding ballast under the ends of ties,
compacting the loose earth,
swaddles of light.

My time to be as quiet
as possible came upon me this morning—
perfect excuse to miss the chores.


Alley. Moon aslant.
A figure retreating.
The dog paws poisoned meat, decides.

I fix the broken (disc carrier bent,
bottom bearing sleeve misaligned with
coupling ring) cream separator
while the men’s backs are turned
lest I, mere female, cross the boundary.

Brimstone burns blue.

A fence line. Kissing me.
The closet’s porcelain doorknob,
beck of light,
mushrooms and painted earth,
the pus-eyed cat
carrying a kitten from the carriage house.

’37 Ford, slant trunk—like a cellar door.
They play keep-away with my hat.

The skin never completely heals.

I suspect tendinitis in the pie-thrower’s elbow,
see the ventriloquist’s lips move.
A greenish vapor rises
through the flux on the surface of the spelter:
zinc volatizing (gosh darn):
the heat too high.

I cut a knot from my shoelace with tin snips.

Through the old pews,
blue aisles of the plum orchard,
I carry water jugs
to Brethren mending a stone fence.

I wipe grease-splatters from my face.

Brother Issac—the exemplar:
steady pace, no lolling—
has a melancholic nature,
his speech sudden, sorrowful,
like furniture floating in floodwater.


While the pistons sleep
I plant white roses in the cylinders
(swell of breast in a warm mouth).

Wellspring and budding cypress
—seven daughters.
Mistakes and destined things.
The way a Model T crank kicks back
to break an arm.
Toad in damp grass, piddly eternities.

A man with girlish hands
: apothecary: blue powder in wrinkled envelope.

Duster, gauntlets, veil.
The road curves past the diner
—lovers holding hands (sweaty?)
and I am the girl in brown
who walks alone.

Nosebleed, backache, blind nun
on the doorstep. A beveled plug-tap
breaks on the cement floor.
I pack a suitcase with yellow light.
An island ripens in the distance.


Dust shivers off the bell
(last alarm: haystack fire
—charm of sun).

At the end of the dark lane
an owl and bright ribbons.

Sop of blood,
unbuttoned sleeve tangled.
Drifted snow?
I read books in an abandoned library.

The voices: eggshells in a shaken sack.
Above me the stars
hang like towels in a cheap hotel.
Cotter pins?
Coal chips—crickets—in the chute.


The epileptic boy has the floor to himself.
And Dillinger
at the door of the movie theatre—
how blinding the sudden light.
Cirrus clouds eke out a place in the sky,
the wind damask against rock cliff,
and search parties
daydream in ever wider circles.


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