Two Poems

Diane Thiel

Power Outage

Some might have called it the reckless immortality
of youth, the way I charged through days and wired nights,
ready to take or leave anything with no notice.
Driving drunk through life, even more willing to let
drunks drive me home — drawing stalkers like a siren.

(The night the power went out, I had heard from one by phone.)

Housesitting for an anthropologist, her home filled
with masks, effigies, bones, bound to bring anyone nightmares.
African spears, with patina proving they had been used,
positioned, oddly, in the corner of the bedroom.
A cough in the middle of the night — that noise of things shutting off.

I was suddenly awake. Felt for the phone. Cordless. Dead.

Naked, I leapt out of bed, feeling along the wall for the spears.
The weapon first. Crouching close to the door, my ears
pricked. Every tree brushing the unfamiliar house,
every wooden creak — a footstep. It was that night,
naked in the dark, a spear in my grip — I was ready to live.

Elegaic Labors

First, you might have to assemble a motley assortment of figures —
cattle, a three-headed dog, apples, some man-eating mares.

Draw on your childhood survival. Abandoned on some distant mountain.
Raised on the milk of a bear. Ambushed by snakes in your crib.

Harness a fire-breathing bull and then sow that red earth with a dragon’s
teeth. Keep an eye on your crop. You may not like what you reap.

Chained to a rock for the sake of that fire—or perhaps you’ll be asked to
hold up the sky for a while. Roll that old stone up the hill.

Meanwhile, begin to re-think your approach. Re-direct all the rivers.
Wash out the eons of dung. Clean the old stable of thoughts.

Patiently search for that word that will bound one idea to the next, deer-
like, and will keep it alive. This should take only a year.

Study the pulse of the ocean to learn how to navigate clashing
rocks, how they open and pause—just long enough to slip through.

Gather your crew from the ranks of assorted renditions and centuries.
Travel together a while. Wrinkle the time-line a little.

Then there’s the riddle you have to both answer and leave an enigma.
Weigh every tone on the scale. Scale every word to the bone.

Still, you might weave and unweave the same shroud on the loom for a lifetime.
Watch the horizon for sails. Wait for the Muse to return.

Or you might spend half your life in the underworld, sorting the words like
myriads of kernels of grain. Just to start over again.

Here is the passage. Around every turn of this labyrinth lurks doubt.
Now, in just five measured feet—carefully weave your way out.

Diane Thiel's

. . . books are: Echolocations (Nicholas Roerich Prize, 2000), Writing Your Rhythm (2001), The White Horse: A Colombian Journey (2004), Resistance Fantasies (2004); and two textbooks from Longman in 2005: Crossroads: Creative Writing Exercises in Four Genres and Open Roads: Exercises in Writing Poetry. Her work appears in Poetry, The Hudson Review, and Best American Poetry 1999, among other publications; and in more than twenty anthologies from Longman, Bedford/St. Martin’s, Harper Collins, Beacon, Henry Holt, and McGraw Hill, including Twentieth Century American Poetry, from McGraw Hill. She was a Fulbright Scholar for 2001-2002 and is on the creative writing faculty at the University of New Mexico. For more information, visit her webpage: Diane Thiel.