jueves, octubre 04, 2007

Six Poems From Robert Lietz


Grey branches reflect on the grey pools,

and a few colored stones.

The cold, taken shallow to my lungs. A morning

before full sun, the year

already turning itself toward cold. Upgrade

through brush I passed,

inspecting the board well-cover, seeing it secure

against small deaths,

walked further among the season's

fine-boned trees, become

bars of light as now October sun

worked through.

Higher still through wood, occasionally

stumbling, past the ground birds'

abandoned nests, the place years back

I laid the cat I could not bury,

passed to the broad forehead of stone

that overlooked two highways,

and rested myself


Tired a little but too restless still for sleep,

I spent that afternoon

in the last sunlight before snow


one love's stand, and the first uses

of our passions. But nothing

of that woman kept. Only

the raw stone her figure

would be cut from.

No matter what primaries her skirts flare,

no matter what murders are resolved

by the events in the next parlor, it’s plain now

Truth holds briefly for transcription

then goes on in its strange face. I exit clean,

only a little nearer Truth, closer

in this work than in my life, walking

among charred stones

set into the turned earth, her words,

like seeds I could not carry,

and like this wide grain entered,

from which a host's

roughed out.


Sweat crates to attic heat. Sweat short-coming love.

He stops to think or stops to catch his breath. He

lets his fingers graze the lettering set deep in an old page,

couples addressed as properties, and puzzles

the guarantees, examining the finer print for sinkholes,

remembrances a swamp turned on, remembering

the week spent moving in, weeks of trying prices out, of

dragging the colors down from racks of carpet rolls.

So now these faces swim to him. He sits, among the oldest

furniture, two damaged chairs, and the stained buffet,

minus the feast-day linens, while over him, in stillness,

(more or less than he admits,) form these words

he stands the tonguings of, the voices of clerks, of bookkeepers

sharpening dark points, the mouths of dreamers

or of men about to cry, of lovers stinging their fingertips

with flirts. Words a block may well have heard

as the train's blare fill the grooves and curlicues, this

great-grandfather's brother's handiwork.

The voices of years, just under the percussion, he sips

his Stevens and pinot. And the sun, about the spot

it did the evening they moved in, makes this puzzle now,

of rooms the spirits open and renew, dreaming

the futures ahead for him, their homely séance say,

brought on by its arrival, and their words like chips,

bearing the coded whole, like a foreign constancy

far into the heartland. A woman sips her crushed melon drink.

A keyboard nudges the bass-soloist along. He

serves the hues and tones of it, and she, without a name,

among these visitors starwalking joists, leaping tufts

of insulation beds, brushes his day-wearied head, feeling

the drag of winters she had whispered him across, this

brightening last of sun, bubble of light at his wine's rim.

And Poetry, because he's asked too little of it, resists

such addings up, resists these autumns, peeled back

like decreations, the looks of a well-made furniture,

teasing the lines and shaded arcs a grown son

tries on for size, trying the names a woman

has to introduce him to.



A rap downstairs. The day's report?

The insurance from North Baltimore?

Not so much by words as by the luxury of timing,

he thinks to raise the dead, waving

the lesser ghosts along, that had leaned above our page

or haunted in our crawlspaces,

like night silks, or borrowings on rainbows.

He feels for his pulse,

and writes the heart of it, leaving these letters again

for friends he just as well could visit,

until the crowding faces quit, long enough

for sleeping, and the menace dulls,

and properties, aligned by their machines,

seem bright sundries, left behind

of a half-century's indenture.

You could have your laughs at it, a man, gone

loony at dream's brink,

easing a moonlit post ( like love notes ) into mail-slots.

Had we not feared that double sky,

and feared the figures now, that lean on our horizon?

Had we not wondered, he asks,

to hear that quickened murmuring, as far as we are

inland, the hum of the sea absorbed

in hand-delivered mail?

He holds the world in check, against our industry's

exhaustion. And tries the lingo on for size,

remembering the boys we were, 1960, '61, kids,

like a mood's coin-toss, abused

( may be,) withstanding the well-aimed ridicule of freaks,

the well-meant tease of strippers

at town line. He remembers all of it, their pearls

and fire-rimmed bells, these "girls"

in their fifth decades, Patience L'Rope

and Caitlan Brace

and Sylvia Appeal, trusting the lights

and fun of it, trucked in to be

the last enlivenings of sand-lots,

like live inventories,

brightening the gist

of letters yet.


As if the dreams of men were prophecies

read backwards,

as if that downy wilderness our eyes camped at

had marked the outer limits

to belief: I take to heart this tribute scotch

and evening's “mail,”

hearing the neighbors a house up, pacing

their screened-in porch

and weighted down by colors,

threatening the sheriff

on his head.

And he remembers all of it, the booths and rides,

the fries and sticky treats, the rides

boys quit, to choose their humblings at sideshows.

Lively, and still young, the dates we paid on

watched us hard and sweetened marriages for decades,

women following him to dreams,

and, in his orphan focus, waving to him from porches

he has brought to a full boil, able to sleep at last,

whistling wassail and spitting into shade,

revising carnival, absorbing

the night cries

that could have meant a chaos, the sounds

of trash cans overturned

behind the Cheney I.G.A., the whispers

of mothers

or brides to be, at work on blue coiffures,

as if his mistrusts

might heal us, his rappings sharpen hearts,

and he -- like a place

where stars might have to go -- had

discovered another way

to entertain the prayerbooks,

getting that all down,

before our waking

finishes the lives

he'd meant

to be.


Late-evening August light fades

from the stained glass in parish windows,

from broken fifths in city playgrounds.

Beyond the pump-your owns and body-shops,

past the rain-warped sheds,

streets narrow, and the carnival lights

enter one another, a swirl

you can pass through, here, with all your lives,

a small calm pitched against skin braced

for celebration, converging on the sideshows

August nights allow: Snake conjurers,

and women who guarantee good fortune,

dare-devils two-wheeling ramps

and leaping fires, the half-dress and spectacles

tucked off in recesses, and Wali,

knife-wielder, executing, blind-folded,

the Dance of masked Defense.

A half-dollar on Wali! Black-lights empurple

his figure center-ring. He slashes, parries,

slipper-stepping light that should not be light.

Fifteen attackers cannot penetrate his cover!

You are assembled at his edges. Ten years old,

too proud to be enchanted, fifteen

years old, overworking prowess at the sports booths,

transparencies, overlays, one and the next.

The room careens like this forever. And Wali,

under lights so soft they blare, unopposed,

unarmed, solos against the midway's din

and locomotion, his arms' measure of wind

raised to commemorate these stragglers,

whom he cannot see, or look for,

for whom he cannot depend.



To be heard, regarded mindfully, I risk

the crossfire lawns, the frantic radios

establishing stage-right. Even the wind,

in concert, chilling the left hand,

gets me privately, remembering the gesture's

sweep, the tablet of erasures,

the public and finished recipes. More like

myself, more blind, on these

ungoverned terraces, I come out to breathe

because I've had my exercise, to see

the trains storm through, confusing the crests

where lives, like terrible petals, flared,

where the fogs burn off over the poured yards,

revealing the children

playing for small change. And who am I

to tell, to boast a strict celebrity,

to play my witness on this muffled instrument?

I hear the locomotion grind. And I

assume my place among the local celebrants,

their morning biscuits and understated praise,

their evening lamps made dark as by design,

driving a mood beyond the hubbub memorized,

the crisscrossed lines I read

on this uplifted palm, and almost find names for.

Would I attempt the scene again, to find

my way across that field of contraptions,

the shoulder exposed and blush, to see again,

behind the kinder zeroes of successes,

the lengths of forearm disappearing

into vapors, raised to mute the probable

guitars, and the unceasing brass

of still-spent influence?


The reasoning does some good, even

the moody summaries, the corners of the place

adazzle with active instruments.

Nobody's mischief interrupts. Nobody's fingernail

on oiled wood disturbs our innocence,

explains this whispering, in seasonal scents,

in afterlight, achieved and brisk,

fluttering on the sills and in the window-wells,

because the rain let up, because

the minutes of last light sit hemming green,

seep to this moonlight now made partial

with ellipses. The mood carpenters abstracts,

sets the medium as is. A smokey wood

warms through, and snarls, coaxed by scraps,

a people moving chairs for their tutorials

at the wizard's heels, asking what's to read,

what's to understand in looks that shade and concentrate,

more perishably alive, asking what vehicle,

what rippling ill-figured love, what vanity,

my dears, explains the uses of such light,

the arrangements of the personal in adventure's sway.

We learn to sit spoiled air, to mount

the rungs of light, the steeps of parturition

and the living will. And we let ourselves

be named, buckle history to meantime, let rescue

serve alluring prominence, having fallen this way

upon the world's gates, fallen from faiths

like ironies, the oldest faiths, like sculpted cream

exhibited to fire, leaving these empty plates,

this space, and all the chairs turned down,

the mead-cups turned, in defective



Nobody's hand excites new blooms,

welcomes a traveler into shops,

into the bright cafes, asking what it's like,

imagining the personal maps

and, piece by piece, topographies of heart,

the ice and the blonde ash,

the eerie adagia daylight fails to mend.

The daylight fills with warblings,

with bashful rant, with mild and reckless

entertainments, letting matters spill,

allowing the desperadoes in, ourselves,

in a time of desperadoes,

in corporate receipt, a scrivening, blown

among tired stars, leaving

a man his heart's hysteria and nonchalance.

I belong to these the solid props

of my survival, these roots exposed

by the wind's rush,

and the commanding irises. And to this

rush of Time, seasonal and brief,

reduced by what appears, by the pitched

asymmetry, the excitement calendared.

I let them ask and ask again. I read the lay

of misadvantage as the flames repeat,

the faces of kids we were, charged

alive at the dewpoint of emotions, like

an alien nonsense scored, as if

to think we had ever been so young,

and to be young enough

to trust...


No less solid to touch. No less

at loss to say my innocence. I confess

such chill, such capricious ice,

all I've wished on and endured, this talk

more driven to conceal

than make plain, rasped with texts

a kid looked forward to.

And hadn't we all looked forward to?

Hadn't we burned old growth,

turned char, spread lime and let lime sit,

as if the eyes of ancients

approved our being there, approved the flames

we put to use in our perfecting,

believing we'd learned to fight

so not to be surprised,

believing the sweats, and tributes

of salute, the shocks behind

well-landed discipline?

Not these jokes, these boardgame

parodies. Not these slopes,

gone when we woke up, these young stars

dropped into the lap

of that pale moon, brooding pieces

of tomorrows

that do not seem to fit. For all I've

wished on and endured,

I hold the misery in tact, the bob and bruise

of martyrs as they fought,

their children waking, shaking

the cobwebs off, who gasp

and vanish murmuring, whatever

the nightmare spilled on them,

the abstractions of singed air, leaving

these coals to taste, to speak

their absences, these tongues

refined by fire, these

words brought home by all

that chalky business

of the planet.

Amazement simplifies, the heart

to resist gone out of it,

leaving the stewards destitute. As if

there had not been

another paradise, another comedy

but this, diamond but this

in flames of honeymoon! I read the factored claims,

the trussed look

of misbegotten argument, of the hungers

choired in higher registers.

And trace the day again to arms,

tracing the old man's lines

on the child's upturned palm, the maps,

of genius, spent, like legend,

like motility, inhering yet

in the still-life.


The spirit cries in time and double-time.

Hues made solid when strangers pass

establish speed and place. We let ourselves

be named, leaping worlds as it seemed,

partners in sheer time, suspended, giving in,

accepting the words it took us lifetimes

to be speaking, like an exquisite latency,

the words as natural as anything

we'd found around the city, the ethereal tango

and descriptive pantomime. Mind

rests, responsibly, having addressed itself

to every sort of proper conduct.

Could we have been so dense, sealing our pasts

away with claims of rapture, renaissance?

The colors pester, signify. The sudden

greenery. The eyes of sheep, grazing

round the compost, opening a seamless place,

hearts made several, and seasons

made behave, leaving the sweetness spoiled

for us, the pique of misarrangements

with the highpriests and police. I have

this morning's sums and evening's tympani,

these committed inventories, boxed,

scored for the next century, (when the century

forgets,) and have these voices whispering,

leaving their ordinal and off-grey mark,

their heat like kinds of poetry we'd asked for.

I brace myself for streets, blood-bitten

and spit, for menace and saints made adamant,

the misfigured riffs like kinds of piloting,

fathoming their business and more fertile

ease. Had we not felt their dreams,

felt with them the conditional imminence

of dreaming, of dreams let go

among the spirals of becoming, the brightening

and receding light, arriving again

as seasons might arrive, not exactly light

so much as the refinements

on a sentence, the curves of seemly pas de deux,

as sudden to sense as ends of quarreling,

as the excitements quickening the orphans'

magazines? I speak, as if remembering,

and have these words to tell, like contracts,

crumpled, in the fiddler's grips, to feel again,

in the whack of birthright and annihilation's sweep,

hopes prospering, worth the wait and see,

highlights straightening to columns, lending

the hand support, standing the weight

of history, the sway of languages the centuries

have given over to prayer.


Beneath this roof till weather lifts

I hear calamity report, scale

the ladder to loft, wondering how old

the carved hearts,

the boasts set in their initials. Stories

I would not have asked stars for,

(one woman's death, the last words

from one child's physician,)

chasten this heart troubling backwards into plurals,

the boy I was, dazed

by the long dying of his grandma,

listening through storm's throb,

an autumn bride, already large with our doomed child,

treading deep the 8-day

dying of the first born, me-not-me, finding

a way toward sleep,

fingering pocket-change for ale, learning to sleep

flat out and pummeling a mattress,

imagining the maps of cities I had no business in.

And there, gambling in light years,

outside the pinball lounge, we found

our closeness had its costs, tough

as we seemed to be, entering that hub

of saxophones and ale,

hoping on hidden bells we tossed our coins to ring

to find ourselves in cash

we had no chance of winning: I hear

that jukebox grumbling yet,

steadying kids affecting steel, repeating as their own

their fathers' versions of two fronts,

and hear that grumbling again, this far

into the century, behind

the metallic blues, the greens and apple reds

of street machines, men

rushing blood away, and the too-white flesh

of Morelli's torn forearm. I see

that child's halved spine. I hear the blue-glint

newborn's troubled breathing still,

more pink for all the lamp-glow of Ward X.

And see, with gist preserved,

off-angled ribs, lips calmed, spine smudged

with that brown salve, and still

no clue for all of her confusion, my eight-day

daughter tossed again upon creation,

as the waters climb the slip-runged

ladder of her spine, no breathing

then, without her knowing it.


Hadn't I talked the horrors out, storm's own,

and talked the keenest edge

of the spun moon, to charm my silo back

and Bach, to hear this haunted news,

this hollowed bull, yielding neither love nor rescue?

And here, where trespass shows its face

for miles, with this Eroica like some next realm,

I feel myself in years ahead, like a signature

to work through, beneath this roof till weather lifts,

under the dream-darkening, dream-flocked

skies, and find these bodies, as it were, crossing back

to atoms, and find we're in for more of it,

for mischief flown like kinds of disbelief,

until the needles catch, until the trouble's

not to cry. Love, lost as the dear link in one child's spine,

the mobius love was, leading away then back,

and thought, spared storm, turned in sympathy

to woodwinds: I say this blessing

on charmed stuff, and on these lovers now, sipping

their noon wine, feeling the coffee's

hold, brightening to these first names brought on

by their initials, and a blessing

on that first born, boxed, buried unmarked

above the grave of her great-grandmother,

asleep among the scraps of a first marriage,

a blessing on these kids, absorbed by dung

and genitals, on these, and these,

that never lived as children, thirsting for blood

but puzzled to be pillaging our daylight,

to scent, for the first time, the light of day

beyond sprung lids, after all of it

surprised, hearing the course of love

surprised, in anybody's accent.

Robert Lietz is a professor of English and Creative Writing at Ohio Northern University, with nearly 500 poems appearing in more than 100 journals in the U.S. and Canada, including Agni Review, Carolina Quarterly, Epoch, The Georgia Review, The Missouri Review, The Northern American Review, The Ontario Review, Poetry and Shenandoah. Seven collections of Mr Lietz's poems have been published, including Running in Place (L’Epervier Press), At Park and East Division ( L’Epervier Press), The Lindbergh Half-century (L’Epervier Press), The Inheritance (Sandhills Press) and Storm Service (Basfal Books). Basfal also published After Business in the West: New and Selected Poems.

The six poems appearing here are part of the forthcoming collection, West of Luna Pier.

Professor Lietz's poems can be read online in numerous magazines, including: The Black Swan Review, Kimera, The Istanbul Literature Review, The Pittsburgh Quarterly Online, Interpoetry and The Valparaiso Literary Review.

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