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Category archive for: Rachel Wetzsteon

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.

Algonquin Afterthoughts

By the time you swear you’re his
Shivering and sighing,
And he swears his passion is
Infinite, undying—
Lady, make a note of this:
One of you is lying.
—Dorothy Parker

Or else our drunken tumble was

too true for daylight’s pleasure,

too much in vino veritas

troubled the gods of measure

who sent bright draughts of sunshine down

and sobered up my treasure.

All night rapacity had come

as naturally as breathing;

we nibbled on each other’s necks

like greedy babies teething.

How soon an empty bottle makes

one feel a blissful free thing.

“Aspirin, aspirin,” he implored;

I fed him several pills,

and when he wondered where he was

it gave me frightful chills,

but still I told him of the party’s

unexpected thrills.

Words woke us up, reflection turned

affection to regret:

“After she left me I tried not

to do this, but I get

so lonely”… so I showed him out,

warbling “I’m glad we met.”

But now I crave the swift return

of scotch-transfigured nights,

like Chaplin, horrified by his

rich friend in City Lights

who only recognizes him

from liquor-gladdened heights,

sticking a tall glass in the man’s

upstanding hand (the clink

or worse awaits poor tramps like us

if scamps like you won’t think)

and meekly scolding, in a voice

weak with nostalgia, “Drink.”

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.

Compasses

My friend told stories I could not believe

of sport among the professoriat,

and toss me clue books if I seem naïve,

dull, spinsterish, inflexible, old hat,

but I’d always assumed that, having taught

of constancy, of compasses that roam

the wide world yet still know true north, men brought

at least a smattering of metal home.

No chance: the only loud sigh-tempests here

were those she could not muffle as she pried

fat gobs of wax from his infected ear;

the only tear-floods anybody cried

were hers, for all that wasted paraffin

lighting up words that never quite sank in.

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.

A Dream Vision

Two phantoms came to me one night,

the first a student of opera

and hard knocks; approaching

in a gown spattered by bloodstains,

she bore on a scarlet tray

a gleaming golden pencil, said “Complain.”

The second, more flower girl

than demented bride, strewed petals

from bottomless pockets with one hand,

held in the other a purple pillow

with a silver pen upon it, whispered “Praise.”

Half-awake in the predawn

I tossed and turned,

raged and burned,

blearily staggered from bed to window

and wondered which fled ghost

would sign her name to the phrases I was forming.

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.

The Very Rich Hours

Your keychain and old watch,

dangling from a belt hoop, suggest

Proust on love: space and time made

directly visible to the heart.

But get a better timepiece,

sort the openers from the metal

that unlocks nothing, and I won’t complain

of metaphors untimely ripped;

for thievish seconds need counting

and real doors need moving through,

despite the irresistible storehouse

of stories that attend on 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.

Cabaret Ludwig

I’ll fly off to a fjord in Norway,

post “Oh the pain” above my doorway

if you insist on going your way,

for this is not a duck.

That is what cowards say, and realists

who run away, shun the appeal its

rare white fur holds, although they feel it’s

a rabbit full of pluck.

Let’s multiply, let’s twitch our noses,

let’s walk among the night’s dark roses,

though where the oldest story goes is

a place where tongues might cluck.

I’ve had my share of quacks and hisses;

whereof mouth cannot speak, it kisses;

hop to it, man, and realize this is

a lovely bit of luck.

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.

The Tennis Courts at Stuyvesant Town

Before, there was a longing—pock—

conjured by lack or hope,

and the ball sailed out to the day’s landscape,

came back as sharpened senses, bluer views.

But here in Stuyvesant Town

the tennis courts are real,

real too (my memoir: from crossed stars

to crossed fingers?) this sturdy hand I grip.

And I, for far too long

for comfort having found warped comfort

in the sports coach-cinematographer

ruling my brain, I roam with you

like an alien in a new world,

con the part clumsily;

if I must succumb to metaphor

let me see the net and asphalt

as an enduring endeavor

of sweat, botched serves and ever-better volleys,

and always the ball going back and forth in sunlight.

At forty I am learning to play tennis.

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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