Four Poems

by Maureen Alsop

After Life

I stand against the mortar & gravel; blind
to the clumsy fire
about to rifle me.  My bound wrists
pulse:  heartbeat: I do not know: I do not
know. I can not see the sky’s
gray mirror, a guillotine, that infinitely repeats
my name.  I say that I am poised
at the edge of beauty and that my body rests
awhile.  I say to myself, be without faith, be
                        Gentle is the soldier
whose words do not reach me.  Gentle his blows…
Imagine             a little while             the physicality
of silence. It is not difficult.
of explosions and a pumping of air break
my hush…            The sun listens
             as another day prepares its silt:
Here, sleep breaks up my world. 
I dream an improbable lung, and this lung
exhales my breath;
through gauzy, infolded
eyes I see You. And see
that I have known You
within every face: a conscious ether, alive
in emptiness.  My body’s white flag
blinks.  Not even a prayer

Mud Pie Underworld

In a blue Parkay margarine dish
with teaspoon, I stirs
hosewater, pine needle, two earth clutches
& seven white pebbles,
like her eggshell teeth.  Pour paddy-cake elixir
& conjugations over hers
blameless body.  Stuff her torso
with moss, her plastic bones smelling of crocus,
I burries her headless.  Orpheus
stumbles through my lilac crawlspace serenading
ghostly wind.
Mama sez when that dog slipped up unders
her on icy gravel her heartbeat shifted
one-thousand degrees & sunk
a corona-halo ‘bove her arch-ankle.  Heartbeat
(mine) heard her crack cry LOUD
like Orpheus when he’s locked away
from ma’s ailin’ ruckus. Orpheus gifts me
woodly things I hate: dead
always: canada geese wrung
throat-less, gnawed robin-beak, shit
all over the yard— but his sandy hair, soft
temper beg me’s and in summers I leap
his old grass-peed patches. Orpheus
digs for dolly now
in the spot I lay her.  Silly-fool-
dog all mud
on his gums and creek-scum tummy. I grrrrs
at him. He don’t cares. He wanna
eat the rest o’ her.  He run off
with  ‘er for Pelorus woods drops
my dirt-stews in slippery slippery
circles. Alone now—
on my own: Miss Lonely Sugar— I close in me
a strange wicked sleep & sprawl peony petals
o’er my dogged eyes.

Holy Holy

On a street of unknown location, he fingered
the buttons of my jagged blouse. Not just anyone’s
blouse, but mine, alone in that hazy summer—
his undreamed mouth slapped hard to my lips—fresh
as a knife. I did not lose my body wrapped in its blindness
when he entered me.  But fumbling flesh is always
imprecise. I could only stay focused
on a few clouds at a time.  Reader, try thinking of an orange sky
splattered with starlings as a train knuckles through
oleander deserts.  Try thinking anywhere
else. If you want a simpler answer, I could say
as if even the momentary
does not happen.  I circle my own tracks, still can’t find
the heavens.  Now I lie beside my husband, held
within the closed light of winter’s coddled room
and hear silence thicken.

Woman in the River

The woman in the river,
 tongue of fire’s tongue,
sniffs the juicy dark, 
kisses nameless             death.
She, snake tongue caught             in a serpent’s coil.
Remember the woman, not a god, calling you
by name.  Sworn to a secret death.
In that evening that does not open, 
remember the woman, calling you.
Her sleep swims
shabby waves. In an evening that will not open 
remember what you dared to touch: 
her sleep swims shabby waves.  Her indifferent hands
bring you back through the juicy dark.
Remember what she dares you to touch: 
she, the woman in the river.