Tuesday, July 1, 2008

James Owens

October, the House Draws Near the Woods

The day unmakes itself,
turning outward,

shaking loose long rags of color.


I wanted flight.
Watching at the window

as the clumsy wind
licked red maple leaves

one by one

—the desire

like a prolonged absence of salt:


I imagined the taste of this other earth,
gritty and rich,

its leaves’ kinship with jeweler’s metals.

(an earlier version appeared in French at Mauvaise Graine)


This stone on the desk is inaccessible
in its rare innards, though fist-shaped

and polished by years’ employment
in meditation—an idle hand grasping

as a mind strokes History or notions of Being.
The cool skin of rock never returns

the answer to any question, not to the fingers
that try its bumps and grooves, not to the silence

of the empty room where it huddles toad-like
while light crosses the desk, slowly, from the window,

in the turning of the day. The stone takes the light,
quietly, when no one sees, then curls back upon itself.

(an earlier version appeared in the chapbook Loan of the Quick)

An Ache in the Pause Just Before

All that summer they were unquiet.

Their nights were longer than normal, conscious
of a pressure, a glance that must have been

themselves, later, looking back from some other
present, with longing or horror. They waited

like something looked at—a painting
holding its breath the long afternoon,

while many bored and dull file past,
and traffic outside the museum stalls in rows,

and simpering, winsome Eve extends the fruit
forever and Adam wakes to discover time.

The Doors of Perception

Transmutation we all desire and dread.
Rescue’s harsh mercy for the sifter of dark.
Thrown from the dim house to raw noon sunlight,

the moth— rich with detail as a Dürer engraving,
ash-gray with shocked mahogany eye-spots—
loops in jagged orbits, drunken rings.

Blinded by that instant, rock-hard dazzle,
it tilts through this vertigo of color, cacophony of light.

(an earlier version appeared in the chapbook Loan of the Quick)

Three Wakings, Parked Beside A Scene From The Inferno


The slate dump breathes hell and rotten eggs,
unfinished as lust, little twirls of smoke
from some fire in its guts the rain
can't reach, that twist and thin as they rise
through the ending darkness,

breath forgetting the body of dirt and rock.


When she lay down in the tub,
the blood from her wrists must
have swirled like unraveling strings of smoke,
the world a far, bright circle
around her face there in the water—
this wet sun behind clouds
that wakes thinking of her with no way to stop.


He finds himself here again, unsurprised,
still half-drunk after a night of drizzle,
drawn to this final landscape.
Morning blackens in his mouth.

The roar of heavy trucks shudders up
through the steering wheel.
Coal dust and sulphur ash

gom the wiper swathes of passing cars.

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