FOUR POEMS, FOUR POETS
The Doppelgänger in the Museum of Subtitles
Here we all have small voices. We trail our slight hands
over the polished bones of diacritical marks
couched in their reliquaries.
Umlauts freeze in mid-leap behind glass.
The high, vaulted ceilings are help up by exclamation points
with the emphasis just! a bit off.
In the drab corridors, there you feel Finnish.
Your packed lunch anchored with smoked herring,
your thermos brimming with dolorous consommé.
We are ponderous, our sentences run
their stock quotes of the human soul
across our floating ribs:
Soren, I have forded the Danube to bring you these biscuits!
The colonials were thrown off balance
by our tweed coats, and we overbore them.
Keiko, she was eaten by her pet crane and no more
will come. Our disasters are quaint,
our expressions almost our words, conscripts
paid with italics after a long march
filled with hostile tinkers.
When the cherry trees are in bloom,
we will realize the stevedores
have been unkind. We bury the hornpipe
out back, and the burning snapshot of our silent uncle
gives off a monochrome smoke
reeking of oysters and gin. We watch our phrases
mate in block script, far behind
our bodies, our deprived faces
hungry for subtext as we stare across
the cold Volga at the broken handcart
pressed down into the mud
by its load of gendered turnips.
From this angle you’ve a rooster on your shoulder
A blue, cotton-polyester-blend sea, cocksure
At necktide, and my chest is a rookery
I’m all aflutter over your ears I’m sure are windows to something
Dark and beyond comprehending
I stub my toe. I bleed for months
It can get so foggy in our bathroom. Sometimes
I think we must be very old souls, or else very young ones
You were very young when you planted that sapling in my ribcage
Now its roots are so well-integrated
They’re indistinguishable from my nervous system
And I drink with my feet, now
Wish desperately that you would hang a tire swing from my arm
And in my left buttcheek carve the initials
Of some young, beautiful-in-love people inside a heart
So that I could not verify but have to trust you that they were there
Across plus signs from one another
From this angle your forehead is large and reflective
And your body looks so far away
Which makes me think that we are very very medium-aged
Souls, or very tall children, or else ghosts
Of very tall children
Mother had a path for cows to walk before their slaughter.
I’m a pick to play the lute of mother.
Attendant, tell me your name.
A frosted bouquet? My mother,
I made the meat of me. I asked it to come to this.
To the holy. I took a nap as safe as a star.
A fish in a bucket catches the light of the sun,
my monk shimmers like that. My body fell on him.
And I said thank you
for my real name.
I gave you a flower and began to pull out
from the gales of groundwater
from the marsh slime
to the light, and the flower screamed,
blossoms leaves stems roots
were cracking and growing
and no one could see who’d won
that battle of the flower, and the flower screamed
when I wanted to drink,
in the morning it stood between me
and the window
devoured the light
and in the sudden darkness under its leaves
hordes of little pale creatures
feeding on silence and blackness
the servants who died
of their gifts
translated from the Czech by the author, Stuart Friebert
all from Pleiades 31.2 (2011), Eds. Wayne Miller and Phong Nguyen