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‘Recessional’ and other new poems.



_____TREES SPILL THEIR leaves as though the light
_____were a gale, the quietness a storm.
_____We try to cling to evidence, to theories
_____of the living, but eviction is our place.

_____The graffiti on the wall, the threadbare rain,
_____write a shorthand of retreat. Sure, we rent
_____the backdrops, penny trumpets, cardboard palms,
_____but don’t forget how rust has trimmed the gate.

_____Lips ready, set, we wear our final smiles.
_____A saw, a trunk. Slice us through the waist.
_____Presto: empty space. No curtain-calls.

_____So much for love—right or wrong.
_____A stage-hand sweeps up the ashes
_____of all our borrowed names.

Tree-Frog, Trees

_____ALL WEEK THE tree-frog bangs his anvil,
_____singing to Adams, Mozart, or Glass.
_____Where is he? I ask.
_____With his country knack for spotting
_____grassquits, cuckoos, palmchats,
_____José soon sniffs him out.
_____Look, he’s here.

_____Minute, he clings to a mirror-back,
_____his pop-eyes milky, veiled.
_____See, amigo, he’s asleep. Yes,
_____frogs sleep, too. We all do, even trees…
_____Sundown follows José home.

_____All night I hear the fig-trees rub their boughs,
_____trying to get comfortable. I listen to the mangoes
_____toss and turn, pregnant with kicking fruit.

_____Sea-glint chugged by day now geysers
_____through the ceiba’s bolt-scarred head.
_____Lightning haunts the giant. In the dark
_____he moans to fallen trees that sprawl
_____like drunken teammates on his knees.

_____Sunshine sipped at teatime
_____trickles back into the jobo’s brain
_____of twigs and air.

_____Breadfruits lift their leaves
_____like glossy hooves upraised in prayer.
_____They dream of neon pastures
_____where they wander fat as cows,
_____slurping day-glow from the grass.

_____Royal palms imagine skies
_____without red ice-picks pecking,
_____without worms. Wish-fulfilled, they sail
_____into the clouds on flapping fronds.

_____Swinging pink-tipped tassels, shy mimosas
_____bump and grind, moonstruck out of character.

_____The shaggy, low-limbed grigri
_____quavers in his nightmare:
_____standing bare-trunk on a public hill.

_____That could only please the bronze almácigo.
_____He flaunts his naked bulges,
_____too self-satisfied to dream.

_____I haven’t seen them sleepwalk, but I will.

_____José comes back at dawn.
_____So if they sleep, I say,
_____they have to wake.

_____Yes, amigo; and they daydream, too.
_____Look how their branches move
_____to the tune of their moods.

_____Trees are full of secrets, he confides.
_____Remember: by day or by night,
_____their leaves are alone with the wind.


_____HI, I’M A messenger from the Zion Trailer Park.
_____Here’s the bad news. Your furniture’s stacked
_____on the sidewalk; we’ll be selling your children
_____to the lowest bidder. We’ve found an abscess
_____in your bank account. Hi, this is a recording.

_____For many years, he listened to his telephone.
_____That same recording. Company… of a kind.
_____Better than those piles of newspapers, hiding
_____their dirty laundry: sulfuric dots and flecks,
_____letters hanging from his ceiling every night
_____like bats above his head. The question was
_____why they would wobble, fly on old echoes
_____from the gagged mouths of tortured who-
_____were-they but nobody even knows, sadly.
_____Letters are good at that, saying they don’t
_____care about anything but themselves. Eat
_____up the whole world and spit it out again.

_____No thanks. He decided he’d never sleep
_____on that bed anymore, or listen to the guy
_____on that telephone; if he wasn’t careful he
_____might shave off his face in the mirror one
_____morning and hear his voice rewinding: Hi,
_____I’m a messenger from the Zion Trailer Park.
_____Here’s the bad news. Hi, this is a recording.
_____Sidewalk selling lowest bidder abscess bank.

Young Poets

_____talk as dawn pries giant petals wakens seas lakes
_____shines on snowy stamens mountains opens noon
_____to full booming bloom yes planet will not wither
_____into night yeah sure but plug uncorks slow drain
_____blinding waters glow fade dim our climbers turn
_____edging down to twilit campfire sip cook eat talk

_____what old poets soon forget is hard evening drink
_____how to wait watch reddish gold on sleeve throat
_____buckle eyes hand mouth wanting hints wordless
_____boots shirts belts fallen bodies rising skins burn
_____twist bite spike flood so no matter phrases limp
_____wilt starry mess pink stew of new flesh is what


Old Poets

_____still remember dread sagging rivers silting eyeless
_____bronzes moving lipless mouths saying this was you
_____leopard digging paws teeth tongue licking knurls ass
_____knob but time discovers dull sitting humbled poor you
_____mist salt room doors cracked on drying weeds headless
_____concrete idol clumsy shoes broke-down moonshine still

_____still only young poets fear wigged age culling wild skin
_____tanning pubis into parched vellum plucking quills so I
_____shrivels browns shrinks to i not-a-word yet three pelts
_____quoth he we wear past present future slang changes I
_____but language rules dude like when a movie lobs still
_____on still hey click just one you hold a hot image still


Morning—the Tropics

_____DREAM’S LAST ECHO scurries through the winding caves
_____xxof a tiger-tattooed shell, in snugger and snugger gaps,
_____till the nautilus fades to gray light striping his sheets.
_____xxThe sun still at bay, the city loiters deserted, its roles
_____unrehearsed as if this day might be the first, the only.
_____xxHidden in a courtyard blocks away, a rooster shatters
_____someone else’s childhood – though he’s the one who
_____xxremembers the wreck, a taffy pulled thin by the long
_____intervening years; it doesn’t smudge the crystal dish
_____xxof the garden here, just reminds him how doors keep
_____swinging; there is no house. He riffles the aftertaste
_____xxof night and dazedly mumbles yes, here he can sleep,
_____it’ll be his grave of sleep; he bats his eyes shut again
_____xxto the crusting glare outside. Breezes comb the wall,
_____already a memorial but fissured, ruined – to his relief:
_____xxhe’d bet his fortune was the past but now he finds no
_____sequel, no burden. He stands up, confronts the house
_____xxsponged free of grief, its worn bricks cool underfoot.
_____The humble planes and squares of unfurnished rooms
_____xxrepeat him, repeat: some law must rule us, even here.
_____Our bodies’ gaskets, cogs, rubbery valves shrug away
_____xxgalaxies that wheel to vaster arcs, until we dawn into
_____the weather, leaf against leaf. A gust wobbles shoots
_____xxof bamboo and they dilate greener, new as heartbeats
_____quickening, not just ours. Morning scrabbles in roots,
_____xxbeetles, earth weaving like water; cells ignite clear to
_____the roof in vines, honeycreepers, yellow trumpets, bees.


_____PALMS ON THE harbor’s sandbar vow they’re growing
_____xxfrom the sea; but rust-gut ships, a stickler lighthouse
_____debunk them with hard evidence, noon. Agate islets
_____xxblaze up with sun, as if a giant snapped open a shade;
_____a wind crackling behind the wind, his famished glare
_____xxwolfs them for lunch. Squat as a lime-pit, your court-
_____yard defangs him: its walls hulk close, so brightness
_____xxwon’t leech; pocked, stout, they gag the burnt fronds
_____that creak on grimy streets, lapsing and lapsing to no
_____xxreprieve; they snuff the traffic, the faraway foghorns,
_____till only squad-cars, shouts, or roosters scale the fort.
_____xxThe curios in this room you jumbled from a suitcase,
_____scraps of time pasted into pages — a day, another day.
_____xxA torn skein of geese from years ago, honking south
_____down the skyway; marble keepsakes of the coastline,
_____xxegg-shaped, white-veined, and cold, a stone diorama
_____to depict how each move or thought will be negated:
_____xxthe lithe sun repelling down cliffs, the night the stars
_____will prick awake, no more than terms in an equation.

_____xxYou gauge five o’clock as clacking shoes of children
_____who stampede the square, screeches cat-o’nine-tailed
_____xxby expectancy; they still believe in fairytales, believe
_____in where they need to go, what they’ll have to suffer,
_____xxwho will save them; the plaza puppet-show of Cocoa
_____and Coco, the mismatched twins — supported by a big
_____xxcast of characters.

_____xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxDusk tingles the soft, spiraling air
_____xxbut doesn’t chill, as summer tailgates summer; leaves
_____unfold, wither, drop to bud again, on sadly-go-rounds
_____xxof deliquescence and return. Your body slumps, limp
_____in impassive hands, a slashed sandbag; the book reads
_____xxyou, the ceiling-fan swirls you in circles, a weightless
_____breathing; you bypass shuttered cities, dip down a low
_____xxblue hill, and disappear on the untracked flats of sleep.

Twilight—the Horses

_____AN OLD WISDOM I didn’t read in any book unthreads
_____xxblood-red passages from frigid currents, even under lenses
_____of ice. In the tropics a crumbled man points to egrets
_____xxreawakening the night-sky, moves his toothless gums
_____without any need for words. Migrations lace, loop
_____xxundersea as in air, earth slips and knots with trillions
_____of insects streaming like fish, birds veering in patterns
_____xxto minute deaths, unnoticed. All we’ve fed to our knowing,
_____our want, short-circuits when breakers snap loose,
_____xxjunked to rust in a field, none of them salvaged. Dust-devils
_____eddy till rain slaps the sidewalk, lizards skitter like rags,
_____xxtrees come unhinged, thunderheads bury afternoon.
_____Is there any truth to our crusade for endings? Aren’t we sewn
_____xxinto sleeve after sleeve, locked into box after box? Maybe
_____we’re always lying, lying… lying on a roof after the storm,
_____xxdead-set to watch the clouds; riding them all the way
_____to the horizon, as their outlines sprout and smear
_____xxin the unlivable blue. They will never zero into focus.
_____Uncharted, the ocean laps at their hooves and their muscles
_____xxrebound to the bitter gunshot of freedom, the roar that fades
_____and blackens to spare us for the night within the night.



_____HOW OFTEN COULD he say the cup, the table, the chair? Unless
_____xxthe meanings stumble, unless the words snag, trip, and crawl
_____on all fours, blunt as the songs on the radio next door, dulled
_____xxby the droning fronds; they’ll still have to wedge him in, until
_____this is the only place he can be found. See, objects don’t know
_____xxjack – watched from the roof, cruise ships stride into port, blue
_____pennants fluttering against the sky, plastic hurrahs that cheapen
_____xxwhat they’d praise: our refuge from the sea, the homeless dark.
_____If words are things, they’ll kidnap you, too, reasssign you to life
_____xxwithout ransom. At twilight, the façade begins to drift, buoyant
_____as teak; coyly, a Virgin carved in stone above the door balances
_____xxon the wind like a figurehead, flickering and bobbing to the old
_____shapeless phrases, riding the nave of crones. The island glowers
_____xxlike a skull, stars riddling the trunk-lid of night, their magnitude
_____almost unnatural; and later the moon grants no truce, filing gray
_____xxwaves with its shiny keel, skating like a cold fire-ship on flecks
_____of purple and green, ice-shavings of foam. Day can’t die, eyes
_____xxnever close. But isn’t that the courage of language? To blind
_____by seeing, to deafen by saying, to divorce the world for words.

Hoyt Rogers, a contributing editor of The Fortnightly Review, is the author of a collection of poetry, Witnesses, and a volume of criticism, The Poetics of Inconstancy. His poems, stories, and essays have appeared in many periodicals. He translates from the French, German, Italian, and Spanish. His translations include the Selected Poems of Borges and three books by Yves Bonnefoy, The Curved Planks, Second Simplicity, and The DigammaOpenwork, an André du Bouchet reader, will be published by Yale in 2014. He lives in the Dominican Republic and Italy.

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