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Category archive for: Rachel Wetzsteon

Mum

Call it saving face —

all that time I spent

pumping oxytocin

when I should have sprayed mace

I can’t share with you,

unless nebulous tales

of gashed receding sails

qualify as true.

No one wants to hear

Not until now have I

fallen and been caught by

such wide arms. But we’re

(call it safe to bet)

not in any hurry;

every last sob story

will sail from these lips yet.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Exquisite Corpses

A long day sunk in old ways:

my corpus needs a core, but when

I draw the blinds and strip I find

not pearls, but panic, a voice

telling me for the thousandth time

the sole self drowns in freedom, cries all night.

With what giddy gratitude then

do I hop the A train, descend

to a web of pleasure and duty

where I cannot work alone,

whether watching a double bill or

making exquisite corpses with your son:

he does the head, folds it, passes it,

I trace a torso, he sketches thighs,

I add the feet—and oh my darling

we cannot enter each other’s minds

but our motives hum and work together,

form a whole body when the drawing’s done.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Ruins

I sat on the subway sipping latte,

reading a short history of ruins.

Then, boarding the bus at Ninety-Sixth Street,

grabbed by mistake—such screwball

anti-élan!—a blind man’s cane

instead of the post beside his slouching form.

Then home to my journal and ordering in.

There are times when one feels oneself

the star of a movie about one’s life,

all nuance and dimension replaced

by scare-quote features, floodlit in plain day.

There are times when one feels a frightful cliché.

And yet the coffee tasted good,

the book set me brooding helplessly,

hopefully, on the folly of recent woes.

To every cliché, a germ of truth.

To do otherwise, a terrible falsehood.

And so, to the unthumbed cookbooks,

to the lavender lipstick bought

in a you-must-change-your-life frenzy,

a gentle not yet: this caffeine high,

this madcap tribute to Hepburn’s ghost,

this zeal for aqueducts and abbeys

compose a life, though someday they may rest

in cobwebbed attics, dear ruins of former selves.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Nightingales

Yes I know what it’s from, and so do you,

when after some bird makes a sound outside

you speak of drowsy numbness, and I shoo

the thought away and claim the thing that cried

is day’s lark, warming up to travel far.

So carve your chicken, talk to someone else;

our words are getting friendly at the bar,

our legs are making finite parallels….

And is it strange, this cluttered way of talking?

I’ve always been a sucker for the charms

of influence, benigner form of stalking.

So many clothes you’d think us free from harms!

But layers bring a fine heat, not a numbing.

Now pass the wine and keep the good lines coming.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Little Geometry Quiz

If faced squarely,

is this triangle’s third side

on which chatter and lurk your old loves—

the potheads and Grace Kelley dead ringers,

the tall rich sylphs, doctor-players,

mope rockers and philosopher queens—

something I’d see crushed?

If they vanished, would the line become

a newly firm base we viewed

as we flew like a flexible hinge

or carefree bird to wide skies?

Or would we collapse on the instant

like a tent in trouble,

the harem in hindsight the very haven

I’d thought I sought, the smiles that plagued me

the pain that kept the passion going?

I who was once good at math

a hop and a jump from your house

come up short, madly circle the question

but despair of an answer, hoping at least

the fact that a triangle

is percussive but also tuneful

will make the music of the brooding sweeter.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Silver Roses

The strings, as if they knew

the lovers are about to meet, begin

to soar, and when he marches in the door

they soar some more—half ecstasy, half pain,

the musical equivalent of rain—

while children who have grown up with one stare

steal further looks across a crowded room,

as goners tend to do.

My father loved it too,

warned me at dinner that he’d be a wreck

long before the final trio came

(Ja, ja, she sighed, and gave him up forever);

he found his Sophie better late than never

and took the fifth about his silent tears

but like him I’m a softie, with a massive

gift for feeling blue.

I went with others, threw

bouquets and caution to the whirling wind,

believing that the rhapsody on stage

would waft its wonders up to our cheap seats;

but mirrors can be beautiful fierce cheats,

delusions of an oversmitten mind;

I relished trouser roles until I had

no petals left to strew.

Up, down the avenue

I wandered like a ghost, I wondered why

a miracle is always a mirage,

then plodded home and set back all the clocks,

spent hard-won funds installing strong new locks,

telling myself if violence like this

could never sound like violins, I would

to art, not life, be true.

And I am trying to

fathom the way I got from there to here,

the joy that snuck up when I’d sworn off joy:

we’ve made a sterling start, we’ve got a plan

to watch it on your satin couch downtown

and I’ll be there upon the stroke of eight,

bearing in my trembling ungloved hand

a silver rose for you.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Sotto Voce

Well, I could, but I’d

Really rather

Inform you

That your

Expectations

About

Poetry’s instant flow are

Odious in the

Extreme:

Majestic moonlight,

Astonishing andantes,

Bad breakups

Obviously call for

Urgent

Treatment, but not yet, only

In

Time.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Midsummer Night’s Swing

One must live in the present tense,

observed Bette Davis, but I have

always lived in the present

tensely. Tell me

about it: two absent-minded sisters,

backward-peering and future-ogling,

took turns obscuring my vision,

and if managed a brief repose

I did it awkwardly:

my senses somehow took their pleasures

smoke and mirrorishly.

But you don’t have that problem, so

train your gaze with ferocious glee,

sway your body gently

to the Dirty Dozen Brass Band

heating up Lincoln Center Plaza

and, hearing the tuba’s boom,

I’ll try to do the same,

for I scribbled vainly all afternoon

and later will be lovely,

but so are these current presents

that make this, for now, the only concert—

trumpet, sky, fountain, dancing eyes.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Rain at Reading

We had gathered under a tent in the park

for some words before lunch and after separate mornings,

and when—twice—the poet said “capital,”

the lightning bolts that followed the noun

had me bolting too; I’d always suspected

God’s communist leanings, but now I regretted

how few exchanges we know

between craft and climate:

imagine a rhyme inciting a rainbow,

blood feuds bruising the sky,

hymns of forgiveness bringing a soft

new light to the faces watching the last act,

waltzes and songs and declamations—

this would be capital entertainment!—

locked in a clinch with open air.

But the lightning was as quick as it was loud.

The clouds dispersed,

and then so did the crowd.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

Mirror Lecture

You’ve got a brain that travels fast, fine trait

for novel links and sonnets built to last.

How could the roadside poplars know the car

was heating up with stirrings of new love?

But soon a swaying graced an embarkation

with wild encouragement; some sooty clouds

observed one grouchy morning silvered when

the check came in the mail; you read one day

that subtle minds lead lives of allegory

and it was uphill after that—to mounds

of radiant significance, bright peaks

where awkward flailing limbs were suddenly

adorned in velvet sleeves. But down, girl, down:

the journey to this place is full of hazards

much more than occupational: enjoy

the naked fact, the roses at the base

of the enormous mesa. Pause, and look

at all the moment’s colors. Breathe, or else

the precious ladder and the swift alembics

will turn on you: your vision in the woods

will go to seed from all the bells and whistles

you’ve stapled to the tossing trees; too much,

too soon, he’ll cry; your nooses are not nice;

I’m wearing socks, not hiking boots, today;

the strawberries I brought for lunch are ripe

because of sun, not us; if little rooms

are everywheres, the air gets awfully musty—

at which dire words you cower and look frightened,

twirling your eternal golden braids.

from Silver RosesFind it in the library

Copyright © Persea Books 2010
Used with the permission of The Permissions Company, Inc.
on behalf of Persea Books.

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