Poems from BASIL

Untitled (Le Carte Géographique), 2009
a box after Joseph Cornell

The usual accoutrements: a miniature metronome, a pinch of sand, a broken tuning fork. Six pearl beads strung with one fleck of bone. A silk tulip dyed blue. Cork-stopped bottle furnished with golden filaments and crumpled tulle. A cutout of Le Carte Géographique de la Lune. But the centerpiece is an agate plucked from Lake Erie’s northern shore. Since its hues and half-shades are most brilliant while stunned underwater, the stone has been placed in a glass dish that collects rain from a bit of plastic tubing snipped from an aquarium filter that protrudes from the roof of the box. During dry spells, an attendant has been hired to fill its spout with dew. She keeps bouquets of thistle in her apron pockets, an iron nail tucked behind one ear. Jerry-rigged to the bony hump on her back are two wings fashioned from the tail feathers of an ancient Scarlet Macaw once trained to rasp, “Who’s there? Who’s there?”



She would have an affair with a man named Ulf.
He would eat toasted cheese sandwiches.
He would have square hands.
He would keep a clock on his mantel
which he would wind every noon with a small bronze key.
His refrigerator would contain a compartment for hard-boiled eggs
which she would always keep full.
He would live on an island in the North Sea
which would be accessible by boat every two Thursdays,
so he would not get the newspaper, and she would not
have to read about the Democratic primaries
or Reem Riashi, mother-of-two, first female
suicide bomber for Hamas. She would not be bothered
by those days when the sun never set
but squat interminably on the horizon instead.
And when they would make love,
the ragged edges of the sea would be sealed from sight
by the four sides of the window frame
so she wouldn’t hear the squalling
of seabirds that scrawled along the shore
and when Ulf, who would smell faintly of chamomile,
would come, she would come too
and she would be a seabird coasting the wind, no
she would be a jewel of salt, no
she would be a herring among a thousand herrings,
a gleam among a thousand silver shifts, no
she would be the sea, not
its heaves or its hurling but
she would be a shush of foam against the sand,
the sigh of froth and spume, no
she would be the hiss
of a fuse lit and burning, she would explode
like sparks, and would never need to look back
finally, like Reem Riashi would never look back.

Originally published in Slipstream

An Assembly of Lit Things

My boyfriend worked the night shift. I got bored. One Thursday I reached up to change the burnt out light in the back of my classroom & a 60 watt Lumalux Double Life dropped into my palm like an overripe pear. That’s when I decided to dedicate myself to light bulb collection. I roamed the hallways of Shortridge Middle School after hours, poking into empty rooms to scavenge for Bulbrite Standbys, Slimline Satin Spunlights, & any incandescent globe. The night janitor knew what I wanted. He’d save specimens for me in his back office, slipping me fluorescent torpedoes, instant starts, & once, a whole boxful of Neptune standard screws. Why light bulbs? you might ask. When I spread them over my sheets, I see a flock of soap bubbles fleeing south. Sometimes the wispy filaments become a fleet of miniature ships all sailing to countless horizons inside the same bright bottle of glass.


The Ant

“It might be a bullet ant,” Jack reported at dinner. “The sting of the bullet ant rates the highest of any ant species on the Schmidt Pain Index.” Jack was well-informed about such subjects. Maude admired the glossiness of the ant’s head, the way he shivered the serrated spurs that graced the end of each one of his six legs when she tenderly stroked his scape. She imagined unsnapping his polished carapace, swinging open his two sides to find interlocking chambers intricate as clockwork, each one ticking like a newborn violin. The room took on the luster of well-worn wooden spoons. The hour of clouds had begun. Outside the window, a telephone line stretched across the backyard, a single uncut string.