Poetry / November 2012 (Issue 19)

Two Poems

by Ken Turner

at the shore, late afternoon
waves nose offerings onto the beach, insistently, quietly:
            purple spines & bits of brain, pearly thumbnails,
                        a chunk of keelwood nudged along the sand
out there sea-wrack and swells, shoals of aquamarine
            & bands of pale green, slate blue, a penciling of gray—
                        breeze beating the surface with little brass mallets
as the bloody buoy tips and tilts, reels above the watery swale,               
            drips & rights, holding light, shuddering under
                        a half-moon pale as cloud
closer, whitewashed pier-ribs, harsh arithmetic against
            the mattress of water, pillowy rocks
                        & the heads of swimmers floating in their own bright darkness
—that time of day when shadows stretch longer than they appear
            when crabs scuttle back to their holes, skirt the punctured sand
                        as if they know what’s in store for us
& now kicked explosions curl down the surf
            —vapor & spray, black water—
                        a fusillade of breakers in the shell-scree
& now the sea throws cast-offs at our reddened feet—
            cowries clicking like bones,
                        sea-fogged glass, softened & swollen,
chips of dead reef to remind us of our appetites
            on this slope of sand pressed into shingle,
                        this land-tongue that helped us to our lungs
what clouds have we made our own, what currents?
            misled by horizon geometry,
                        the way we explain how light stains water
our tortured physics of dune-drift & wind-yawl
            & how we work to fathom
                        why the sand shifts under our feet
Out of Season                                                           
                        Everyone should write a spring poem.
                        Louise Gluck
The daily drift of petals on the parked Toyota,                       
yellow over neon blue,                 
            damp confetti of decay:
this constant unseemly coming and going
in the tropics, death always underfoot
            or dropping from the trees.
Each morning the leaf-scabbed lawns stretch                                    
beneath the winks of last night’s upstarts
            fattening on the branches.
Life sprawls here, each limb draped                             
with fruit, an inundation of sunlight,                            
            the never-fallow earth,
so at first you don’t miss the old story,
frost to first gold, the familiar round                            
            of death and resurrection.
On some streets in this city, the undercrust
of crunch, brittle swirls in the sunlight, could
            fool you into autumn
except for the absent grace
of elaborated endings—fading reds,                            
            cider sting,
the relief of naked branches in ice-
polished restraint. Restful negation:
            full pause.
This world of concurrent spurt and crumple
baffles nostalgia,
            shames melancholy
and displaces our schemes for
virtue’s reward in a litter                                     
            of random yellowing leaves.
Transplants from a place of consequence,
from life in circuits, we wander              
            through this fathomless green                           
where arise and release coincide,
where leaf-blade parrots pierce the air
            with fitful, indecorous cries.
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