Poems of the Week



Gothic Novel


I believe they believed what I said.

I said the vents whisper calculations
worth writing on your ankle.

As a watch on the counter, I said,
I imagined a boxcar inside.

I imagined I asked,

What about the revolver in the hive?
What about the thermos

propping open the book—
what book was it?

I imagined I knew this:

the streetlights turned into dots at the dawn.
The dots sounded like air conditioners

or they didn’t sound like anything.


I have invented this twitch
not thinking of you

on my gurney in the exhibit.

I have invented this:
a statue waiting all day long—

it starts to worry.

It worries a table with years missing from it
is no method for the sparrows.

It worries a fork in the swamp
is no refrain from the gauze.

In the swamp, I asked the spools—
because I knew not who to ask—

“Did they mention a shawl?”


A lens is incapable of noise
even in that hut.

A noise darkens the hut.

That the urn wobbles within the hut—
not worth speculation.

It is not worth speculating the causes,
whether the asterisk caused

her to drop the lens in that urn.
I won’t mention the urn made of wood,

the wooden urn.
I won’t mention what this might entail.

I won’t mention the noise
escaping from that urn.


There’s a Human Being in the Ditch

A glimpse of pale lilac (the purple
trick) in the leak the rain made—a water-
color collage in which tin cans and weepy
yellow grasses, a headlight passing, that
cloud overhead, my hand on the car’s
window where I’m stopped at a sign—
undulate dirtily and tremble with traffic.
You alone are real to me, Rilke said.
He did not say it to me, exactly.
There’s a human being at the bottom
of that ditch, but he’s not there.
He’s not even here. There’s a human
being’s voice coating the curve
of that cloud, kicking the can,
bringing buckets of lilacs to the door
of my little summer house.
A human being outlined
on the page, chalk outline,
dead person, alone is.
Every word’s heart conjures
a terrible casualty. You
mustn’t put me back in the cage.
There’s a human being
in my ditch, rectangular,
watery, his echo prowls
behind the bricks of this
savagely real, the wakeful
engine of alertness, and animals.



what good is she then
wearing lightweight combs

in her hair in the v-shaped
valley, then far

from the v-shaped valley
on fire: the field

plus everything wood


in the world
what glorified branch reads

“one limb lost from another”
among the tall grasses

the prairie distracts her

from bellowing Mary
whose bloodlines Ruth

has eschewed for some
twenty-nine years


in the storm shack
pulling her hair down


not the thought
of her drowning in that

but the other, that peerless contraption



“Begin with who was killed and why.”

If x = x,
y = x,
abc = x, etc.

salt for salt
ice for ice

If someone asked, you wouldn’t call it pain.

Sound of rain, the water boiling over.
“one chance”

I lost my timeline.

Now that it’s broke, turning black, something
ticking in the closet (the snow
kept it quiet for a while)

“That wasn’t love—it was longing.”

Everybody has ten days.


all from Conduit 15 (Fall 2004), Ed. William D. Waltz

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