Mast of the Ship, Beam of the Loom
    Hildred Crill
Outside the kitchen window, across our yard, a farm once,
strangers carry bundles, the same gray as the twilight

and themselves. They face away and move on,
eyeless as jumbled stones, the puzzle snug

with all the wrong pieces. So much dusk
I can't read curves and forms, boulders

with nothing to bind them but a belief in balance.
Gestures of an erased language I should know

stall at our yard's edge. I will never learn so many letters
well enough that speech will rise from the wall I watch

through the lines of bare trees. I shuffled books
inside the book, where I questioned sleep

given by gods, Penelope's head on her arm,
back to the beginning.


* * *


The alphabet returned to itself. A, loop just before tying;
B, yanked out of symmetry... theta, a mouth open,

tongue across it. Swinging on a hinge: word
and flower in anthology; hippopotamus, the river horse.

Dizzy watcher of skies,
I trained binoculars on shifting verbs.

I tunneled lexicon to commentary
back to a slow motion book, holding

hour by hour. The shutters formed
a triptych, middle door open, the view

blocked even more by a concrete wall,
wrought iron circles written over the passing clouds.

Without thinking I suspended endings
in the foreground. What once seemed random flicks

collected as I kept what was fleeing.


* * *


She compiles an index of Homeric terms: hundreds of cards
slip across the floor, a layer too thin for rubble. Someone stole the battery
from the car. Her kids are building flatland with legos they are so accustomed to life
on floorboards. Blankets billowing, they dart for the waterbed-ship and waves-
at the sound of their father's footsteps leaving.


* * *


All night I scan CÚzanne's journals, hunt
for his wife's name in the late morning dream-
when you ask me to sit like a pear,
I say, be patient; gravity keeps pulling

but wonder: spin, golden, not the glow in itself.
If I paint the pear, it will move.

Your stacked canvases lean
against the wall. Our room narrows

but the table pleases you, basket of eggs,
copper pot, a small jug. Nothing here

flies out of orbit. I shift, uncomfortable
in the red armchair, figuring the speed

at which one body escapes another.


* * *


What she will lose later,
what she will have forgotten,
she finds at this moment, all of it,
in a single Greek word: anything
placed upright; the mast of the ship;
beam of the loom; the warp;
a woven substance, web.

Someone sets up the mast again,
hoists the white sails. Somewhere
they will set foot on land.


* * *


Always the engines on the main road hum promise.
My lamp spotlights maroon cloth as it curls

from cardboard, gauze, stitches; tight lines
of Greek unravel, leave me. Anonymous eaters of lotus,

a man called nobody, the son whose name is his father's absence.
I want to pull all these from the book, turn them over on my palm

inside this greenhouse where interiors persist,
where light matters only for seeing glass flowers.


* * *


At first nothing distracts her from the phone cradled in her pocket. She reads from the manual: Warning: do not depend on this phone as the sole means for vital contact in emergencies. As is true of all such wireless equipment, this phone functions through a variety of networks that cannot establish guaranteed connection under all circumstances. Even the briefest message carries one embedded signal to be retrieved from another. All around her, where crowds move past vending wagons under the high ceiling, predetermined tones are chiming, no one certain who should answer.


* * *


Waking before light-each detail of self
and passage: the sea moves,
a long shore for choosing.
The rest of the photograph
is what's not in it, the part I don't want
anyone to see.

My lover sits on the stone wall
gazing. What I touched between the lines
suddenly appears
no longer there,
when I argue alone at the kitchen table,
wanting the huge minutes to hang on.
The singing vanishes
even more than the song.


* * *


The Cyclops is not real, just the desires. The men are not real, they have no names. They enter the story to be eaten. Publius Vergilius Maro, born October 15, 70 BC at Andes, a district near Mantua, gave Aeneas a wife with a name-Creusa-a name I could not remember-who is lost as they are escaping the city, for whom Aeneas returns, searching streets back to their house as flames devour it. No one left behind, no one waiting.


* * *


She weaves a cover for the end of life,
all the while wishing for more

than rows that grow long and wide.
In and out of the upright warp, the thread

passes sideways. She moves through vines, one thousand
kinds of trees, so many leaf shapes, some trunks rising branchless

one hundred feet, where crowns twist to the sun
in all directions. Everything breaks,

decomposes, is eaten. Spines and toxins, a loop
or snake so close-she watches her hand and foot.

It's not longer hair, the cuts on his arm
that make her not know him. Do you remember

the distance between me and the letters I wrote you?
How I searched for them printed on the forest floor,

everywhere except in my own voice?
What letters? Do you know how cold it is

in the wind above the canopy? From the gaps steam rises
after drenching rains-I have seen it; water returns quickly to the clouds.


* * *


Why should I repeat formulas all night as if I'm moving
solid rocks, when just as easily dreams could wander
in and out of each other. I could fling all of it
through my throat, each flight over the roof.
A face emptied of features, a body like any other-
he was many different people.
What he looks like, rumors of blindness
come back to me, some words said only once.
Those who understand say formulas aren't fixed
into stone, that the song is made in the singing.



Hildred Crill works as an artist in the schools through the NH State Council on the Arts and the Arts Alliance of Northern NH. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Colorado Review, Poet Lore, Kalliope and other journals.
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
 

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