This has so far been the most confusing of my submissions. "Geography" and "Shapes" were accepted for publication in the January-March 2014 issue of Sentinel Literary Quarterly (based in the United Kingdom) sometime in November last year. March came and went with no news from the pub. Then, with half the year already gone, the issue's finally out - at least parts of it, based on how the website looks. My poems are supposed to appear only in the print version of the magazine, so here they are.
* * * * *
Tonight, my lover promised we would go places--
edge of the sun or rim of a lunar crater
circle the burst of stars in our patch of sky
hitch a ride on a spinning asteroid
and feel how space invades the distance
straddling two electric bodies.
Here was our house, next to Moscow
and the frost that permeates its empty squares.
Every morning, we woke to bells ringing
from the onion domes of St. Basil's
sounds we imagined mailed to our window
by melting snow, the hurtling wind.
My lover believed in all things real and imagined,
and I, the rest that hover in between.
In the place where they sell coffins,
I first saw her, looking from beneath one of the cases
the glass reflecting the whites of her eyes
her body, a lazy shadow supine in its polished casing.
I took her, there and then, on a trip around the globe
painting portraits of ruins and walls, hillside
trees, a field of wildflower, mountains.
She devoured the sights, the moving pictures
down to the final shred of celluloid.
Stop-- touch this acre of soft earth.
Here was the place for the invention of promise:
bend of the harsh ray of light
and spark of the first gleam of life.
Notice how everything collapses to its core,
how nothing seems able to withstand
the pull of gravity. This is also a place
for broken things, and for things to be broken.
Shards of glass collect on the bleeding feet,
wounds refusing to close with every washing.
Here was where we landed last night:
not in Zurich or Oslo, balmy Barcelona,
the lofty heights of Denver or swampy New Orleans.
A house of stone and fog, both solid and wisp
like whispers inhabiting the space between our mouths.
Here, our words are nothing but air.
* * * * *
The lemon tree makes a curious shape
in the way it bends to the sky:
stooped, slight dent along the delicate stem
as if praying to heaven or asking
what shape the rain takes
as it plummets in a raging storm.
To be old and still bear fruit-- yellow,
flock of eager schoolchildren
navigating an empty museum at daytime;
sour, the aftertaste of troubled marriages--
is quite enviable. It means the capacity
to create is still intact, like looking beyond
the windowpane and asking the glass
what shape the moon takes at midnight,
hoping to imitate its spectral glow,
the curve where darkness meets the light.
This morning, the lemon tree travelled
one inch farther from its mound of earth,
but also, nearer to when it shall finally stop
trying to be taller than the rest of the garden--
the nonstop pendulum of bamboo stalks,
the rose bushes blossoming in summer--
and learn to let go of the one perfect fruit
hanging from the one perfect branch,
or what is the shape of sadness
trapped in the bubble of trickling tears
when a father's face has turned away
after his daughter's wedding.
Tonight, the lemon tree stands content
with the geometry of its place--
the triangle of leaves moist with dewdrops
the parallel branches bearing weight
of the future fruit, or what shape
the unborn seed takes in its watery womb,
in its nameless state when even strangers
tend to its needs, an old man's need
to see circles and squares take the form
of boisterous grandchildren, like saplings
breaking through the soil for the first time.