ISSUE  1   2   3   4   SUBMIT

Two Poems


Eric Keenaghan

A Second Love Letter to My Husband

     She fucks stars, / takes to her talons the great of this world
     until they sweat themselves to a cringing, / high in the empyrean
          —Nathaniel Tarn

A year. Now past. In its wake, Her, too. The price:
a passionate simplicity once shared in times of burning:
stones, the litter lining the ground to catch flame—shavings, the tinder hope was to catch
tenderly—bindings, the rings manifesting a univocal sign—bodies, the fodder alight to the
point of transparency—
Heart fires rendered improbable once hearths
settle on otherwise lawless relations.

Once we’re introduced, we’re tearing Her apart. Again.
Of the Great Consumer others have sung,
yet only an anthropologist’s page’s left,
to record the myth. Anxieties, sweat stains, extolation: heat’s residua, flight’s appendix.
No trace of Her except where She wrote Her name, and even there the syllable’s
transformed by this place’s overgrowth.
                                                            Here. A vermilion finch darts
(bandy legs limp), low to a half-choked knoll (no meadow),
and the sun bows the cirrus with the vestiges of force,
just enough to make the vapor trails sing in quarter-time
or to singe, to throw this ornithic commonality
into some kind of spotlight, a brightness swallowed up
by the brightness of all that already is. No worlds
gripped tight in her metatarsals. No rings
upon her toes. Does she, too, fuck stars?

Another red bird flies lower still, in tow after her,
or like an afterthought, a spark, left by this passage.




In-Tact (before—and after—a candlelight vigil for Cindy Sheehan)

      One cannot imagine what a law would be in general without something like tact: one must touch without
      touching. In touching, touching is forbidden: do not touch or tamper with the thing itself, do not touch
      on what there is to touch. Do not touch what remains to be touched, and first of all law itself—which is
      the untouchable, before the ritual prohibitions that this or that religion or culture may impose on
      touching[.]

            —Jacques Derrida, On Touching—Jean Luc-Nancy

I
Outside: media blitz. Who dares
disrupt the thoughtless judgments,
question the empty reason? A chorus
in bad polyester cries: Love! You
careless wretch! You wrench
righteous minds into outrage,
swerve them to their ruin. . .

Fade. Flicker. Blur.

Static. Celluloid—
outdated medium—
is folded, uncut.
Tease it back, like blankets
or stubborn foreskin, to gaze
at what’s encrusted
underneath before the heat causes
it to sparrow spontaneously, peel
and flap its edges,to burst
fitfully into a theoretic flame.

In my room: I can’t care
since your voice is on time
delay. It’s too late to stir since
yesterday someone shot the murder
that wakened us daily
with their bloody caws. Already
I should’ve been writing. Pops
go off. You’re groaning behind a door
I senselessly close every night
to keep the invisibles' eyes off
my hands and their casual creepings.

Everything is as we remember it.

You call to remind—and warn—
me of the vans lining up
to curb our vagabondage.

II
You, on the line, in here, you can call me
any any time like Snow White, Beauty,
Tatiana or some fairy princess
my poet nephew the boy-and-ladykiller
thinks are so beautiful since they’re
dead ’n dumb as a doornail, like me
while you arouse me with a brick
of coffee, percolated 20 years ago.
In my one-floor flat I smell
its waft from downstairs. Red breasts
not murders outside. (It’s just as political.)
You, down there. Now. Then. In that other room.
Gather my courage in the buzz
to hit “Return” from under the covers,
preparing myself to growl a purr
in that a.m. phone sex voice. Knowing
at first you’ll laugh, then you’ll
begin the exercises, your lectures on
what is right. Am I a student now
since my teacher died? Daily, silently
you instruct me to fix my eyes
before my feet. Walk on. Reach out
and touch someone, wring me so I don’t come,
but coax me to unravel and come undone.

Out there: Across a telephonic wasteland you bring the bitters of love. Always out of time.

III
Outside: BAGHDAD, Dec. 8 - A suicide bomber shoved aside a fare collector at
Baghdad's main bus terminal on Thursday, forced himself onto a crowded bus and blew
himself up, causing an enormous explosion that killed at least 30 people and reduced the
bus to a charred, mangled husk, witnesses and police officials said.


In there: The police can’t bear witness. Yet, they speak
the same language as those who touch the scene.
Who described the husk, overdone, and who verified
the explosion? And why do you, Tiresias, reach out to me
with news yet to happen but always happening, news on
the verge of coming, to keep me and to keep me
from writing? How close are you now?

The rites failed that might have blazed
the future. So I learned
from the boy here:
my guide, as I am to others.

I learn from anyone, but you
you have twisted it out of me.

IV
Outdoors: Fireworks and roars and too many trucks
circulate in the park’s narrow arteries. In all that
clutter clangor clatter echoes the bombs we bomb
to suppress. From the other side of the line, you mutter
on top of them, joining the chorus of this unreal
city, seducing me to their cause, pleading
our case, insisting on our need to plant our scripts.
A simpleton with a bad haircut and the gnarled
hand of an inbred Albanian ventriloquizes
the sovereign’s decrees in order to stretch
his throat, loosen the jaw, to swallow
the mic: “Stop wasting time. Take them in.
From now on they’ll act like women.
Tie them up. No more running loose.”

In my room: When through all that fuzz you quote
a poem of mine back to me about Ken Irby
and dead poets’ households, I sound strange
in your lisping palatal lappings, as if
I should be only when I am on your tongue,
when I am most removed from me. We learn
how to speak twice. Once for the in-laws, and
once again for those who press hard into us.

You, speak from a muscle memory
of fingering a 50s supermodel,
pictured wrapped in a clingy
skirt made of hot dogs.
(Rauschenberg’s tie suits
for Drella pale in comparison.)
A heart, behind, on her kitschy
backside; inside, my initials. Verse,
tunes, processed meat,
and versus. My tiny package
standing for the bigger one
like a Whitman poem
(whoever holding me
now in hand). Only I
could use such simplicities
to “fill your arms,” as Duncan says,
“with my forever.” Use them—
my arms, my things—against me,
as you will. And you will.

V
Outside: again miners throw
open the flood lights, searching
out information on those few
who plan to quietly declaim,
Touchpads and tablets no longer
suffice. We must walk. One woman,
unveiled, stood up to say, “The law forbids
me to see the brown eye of day. I am agony!”
These felt heart murmurs, theirs-to-come
and ours-too-past, each contraction
a living step toward our end,
each whisper a mediated caress
so early morningily grumbled by
me sounding like Eartha Kitt panting
behind decades-old coffee and phantom
cigarettes. Our bodies, our cells, our walls
are privacies opening onto publics.

Inside: My head laughing, rolling
on the ground, me and my prince
of stories free to be received
or exposed in our glass casket.

Clutching your plastic voice close
to my ear like a trampy sequin bag,
sipping bitter mornings’ coffee,
thinking of sausages, words, pleather
jackets. To fill a space where dead
hearts should beat. Our sister says
this is melancholia
attending living and loving
living and loving outside
the livable outside the field
of love. Our new illusion.

You twist thought
right out of me.

VI
On the fold: We spent our early hours
like this. With our moms. You sipped
iced tea in a Southern daze; I swished
tepid java in a breezy Cape town.
Once, we were their sons, needing
more than our share of safekeeping.
Grown, we’re somewhat stronger.
Surely, stranger. Kinship
killed our could’ve been human.

Those mornings
I never heard of you.
Sometimes I saw you
lying in wait in tea leaves
on the other side
of windswept lines,
giving me a body
ending the void
where networks trudge
relentlessly,
despite siroccos
and sunspots.

That’s clearer now.

Out there, three hundred
odd souls will collect, inhere,
intact, but not touching one
another, to commemorate
a lost mother. And her love.
But her pain moves me
less than the pain
of the Other One.
                           Once upon a time,
she and her boy stopped sharing
cool morning drinks. Then some him
died. But later this dead man stirred
Some One In The Distance,
the One who coos
across cybernetic deserts.

To Him we’ll process, in here, in my room out there for all
to see, us touching as we’re waking on another and
walking to the One who’ll never have another chance
to sweetly awaken the soldier on the other side.
Through Him, the One alone yet connected,
we will trace our perverse and ill-fated line.