Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne From Behind
Later he would think of it in his cubicle. Would recall, twisting from his whiny-wheeled chair to reach the phone’s dead insistences, Apollo catching up to her: right hand flung aside for balance, left hand wrapped around the bark firming her belly. Bits of paper would flag and flutter slightly against their sagging forest, edges curling toward fluorescence, sash flying liquid behind him as her skin scaled, hands sprouted, locks went leafy. The phone’s snarled cord rooted, fibers webbing from her toenails to the earth, the stained carpet, its deceitful dullness. His eyes on her inner arm, smooth curve branching as he’d answer, his voice softer than he’d expected.
The Art of William Christenberry
Wire sliced your eye at fourteen, when
tension flicked it from a bale of Sunday’s
Birmingham News. You cupped your wound
with ink-stained hands, fled to the all-night gas
station and its cracked mirror. The bare bulb
sputtered at tile and graffiti, mocking
firelight, morse code. You wept blood when you saw
the torn pupil. Next night, you sprawled below
experts, vomit drying on feverish lips, your
arm bruised by penicillin shots. Milky
haze filmed across the lens. Your pupil slid
to the corner, chastised. Four years later,
the doctor said, You got to learn to feel
depth now, boy. You sure won’t see it again.
Perhaps that’s why your past is peopled by
simple shapes – a geometry of cube,
cylinder, sphere, cone. Why ladders lean
away from earth. Angles that somehow seem
dangerous in their reach past silhouettes
of monochromatic barns, dogtrot shacks,
barbeque stands, fences, country churches,
skyline of the sharecropper’s south. Is that
why gourds dangle from dead trees, curving
their bodies from branches, expectant, like
dreams you had? Why I can’t stare for too long
at these photos, dioramas, boxes
of knives, signs, cloth, real Alabama dirt?
Why it looks so raw, untreated. At first.
And then the texture. Rusty roofs unhinged
from weathered walls, planks warped, psychic’s hand
splintered and askew, swingset skeleton
striped unevenly in white – it’s falling
apart, this world you return to. Homemade
gravestones topple, plastic bouquets fade
in sun. Cars, still reeling from ancient dents,
rest on concrete blocks. Where are the children,
red moons beneath their fingernails? And our
mothers, aproned and forever bending
to retrieve some toy? All you give us are signs,
bullet-scarred: Enjoy Grapette Soda, Royal
Crown Cola, Jesus Saves, Sun Beam Bread, Tops
Sweet Snuff, Say Pepsi Please, No Hunting, Pure.
Klansmen gather near our churches, white heads
steepling, slit-eyed and betasseled. At first,
pale hands shove through satin and curl mid-way
to fists. We see boots. Red crosses waver
as arms stretch, possessive below that moon
of ours. We shy away, sickened, unsure what
to do. Later, they hang from branches,
bound by floss, leather, plain white string, held down
by metal bands just beginning to rust.
They are dipped in waxes, shorn of limbs, trapped
in boxes, stuck with a hundred sharp pins.
You make sure something red always crosses
them. They flatten, cones crumpled. You strip them
of depth. Night’s glamour gone. Their eyes sewn shut.