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Category archive for: Leslie Shinn

Nightingale

He had forced flowers—thin,

crenulated bells—tied on the naked stunted

trees of his closed court—enticements—

and when withered, replaced.

Taken to his side as he moved from bed

to chair to table on the porcelain floors,

a perch, unused but ready, its crossed

bars laid with seeds and jewels.

He sat arranged in his dragon dress, and his books

came. The slaves and quiet children

in white robes dragged them to his feet

on old carpets and lifted page over page

while he waited all day unspeaking

the evening custom of the valuable bird that,

plainest gray and held only by air

above the falling crown of sunset,

sang to light the heart’s dark lantern.

from Inside Spiders

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

The Radio

At table the children,

allowed the radio,

unaccountably chose opera.

The light steadied under the swung lamp,

the cloth clean and pulled over the center,

the music low but building.

Tableau: the palm-sized players,

magnified behind the water glasses,

minuet round the salt.

Any talk was of costumes,

making and remarking their hats and the king

lovely, all along his robes

of decided red were drawn

noble, resting dogs:

what they saw when they heard.

from Inside Spiders

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Place

Street set: at seven,

the same grid of slate and grit

with some rain down

through the trees, those mercies.

But left and deep under the shaken leaves

the revenant dark lies and keeps

its limbs and long wings,

its hidden heads that watch

me, under my jacked umbrella,

move back in with the dog.

from Inside Spiders

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Passenger

At your death, mother, the death ornaments

appeared, the held, kicked attendants,

tiny sparrow-dove splayed outside

on the floor, the cracked wing working,

the mystery girl

at the room’s edge lofted in smoke

along with your mother in torn sepia, who

hid in your grudge-crowded bed.

How you did strive, then,

to kiss what was left of me

when it came to you,

and how you said so evenly,

“Now, don’t cry,” looking down,

bound for a minute in my own hands,

paler but set in your ways.

from Inside Spiders

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Rats

A brace of dead ones

at the foot of the steps,

a present from the neighbor whose

starved dead dog she had patted

and fed. Big, city-basement ones,

poisoned so unmarked, two plump

pouches, their faces finished

where she would not look.

Hole-black! Denser than utmost darkness.

She pushed their small peculiar weights

onto the snow shovel, the terrible tails

writhing senselessly down into the shiny black

bag, the tying shut difficult too.

Streaming clouds, the late sun less

than the lights on next door, she backed

up against her own house, threshold

above cellar and gutter.

Afraid to stay out, afraid to go in.

from Inside Spiders

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Arrangement

Between us, coffee

and the scrim of city air, a cast

off the gleam

of heat, still present.

A poor flower in a plain

vase for me to look at, else.

Then a little talk lifts,

the detail no more etched

than your beautiful stainless

face, and opposite me,

from your place in all this light,

do you become hidden.

from Inside Spiders

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

The Grown Boy

The fog let in, it breathes

its smoke beneath the shut door

where—dirtcake, scarecat—

he lolls in his bad bed.

The paintings look down

on the piled planes of his bones, the oval

of his face drawn on the pillow,

white on white in the darkened dream as, years on,

and gone from the locked past with his belongings,

he appears again whole, holding my provisional gift:

pomegranate, the meat and seeds

the heart he eats from his knife.

from Inside Spiders

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Compline

All Saints Convent, Catonsville, Maryland

The thrown arms of the cloister

draw evening’s thin sleeve of light

along the nave. Under those black

vaults, high fans scissor and one

candle cup hangs, white sustenance,

tangent to the moon.

Without, the brought dogs soar

on their tethers but the fleet

deer, still hungry, escape. New webs

gleam empty in the lilied fields,

though here with us was that reach met,

and the little hours kept all day to their intervals.

Owls cast from the hunched trees.

Together late, we rich few are full up.

from Inside Spiders

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Housewife

When the spiders come

inside, surprised off

the cacti that summered out,

and string up the ceiling,

and lace the white curtain

across in the fine light,

the beauties, I breathe them down.

Unpinned, they fall

into my fine-lipped cup,

the paper lid on

through the whole house

to the sunk garden,

the hopes handed out, and staying out.

from Inside Spiders

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Drowned

1.

The whales and fishes were left,

and fine, tasting the trees,

threading through high windows

over tables and beds. Except

they were chased and eaten,

they lived on, chasing and eating.

2.

Other vultures than the pair, glossy

from the last gulls, paced

and screamed on the bulkheads,

and fell away, but more than two

sparrows splintered inside

and shot the dark length.

3.

Clouds for light

as the water closed.

A box of glazed paper was fitted

for me in the highest hold, where the snakes

piled and pulsed, where the wildest birds were shelved.

Ground glass my sand and swallow.

4.

Spiders, uncounted and everyplace, watched, chased,

and wrung in string whole species of unparceled insects.

5.

Halcyon dove alight

over the deepened shores,

the seaming rivers,

my fellow, mate became.

Later, with Rome begun

and again unforgiven,

the sky open clear to the planets,

night after night disappeared.

from Inside Spiders

Copyright © Persea Books 2013
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council, a State-based program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this (publication, website, exhibit, etc.) do not necessarily represent those of the Idaho Humanities Council or the National Endowment for the Humanities.