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f i v e  p o e m s

p a t r i c i a  c o n n o l l y  



What of the one in the corner,

face and form in shadow,

indoors for a night’s sleep,

dreaming of the fat-tailed sheep,

far behind her on the long roads,

the little carts behind them.


What of the spider she murdered, the peewit, the mouse,

who greet her in the blue dawn, dancing, whole, human size

over the acres of polished linoleum to where she is trapped

on that treacherous black ice, to tell her again

the story of the straw, the coal and the bean,

their brief march from hope to disaster.


What of the beef that was cooked and left to cool,

to be eaten in a ritual meal of thanksgiving

for love sparkling in the light after the nights of death.


A woman dancing alone past the gate

smelled it and stole it in the one quick breath,

tore away the meal’s narrative and the

cook’s life with it in a long firey streak,

leaving her battered corpse outside the door

on the cold cinders and camomile flowers.


What of the coal, the straw and the bean,

the spider, the peewit and the mouse,

playing cards for the spirit hidden by shadows.

Will the thread of the spirit hold or break,

how best should the spirit’s story be told?


Who took the meat, and so tore down the cook?




A mean triangle

just wide enough for a leftover spirit

to not lie, not stand, not sit, lingering past

vital signs gone flat from the dead cold

of an overdose that drew it past and on.

A little ease

where the spirit is trapped, fluttering.

Its odorless presence

is penned in close here where

it suffered, ate lunch, and slept,

put down rat poison, collected books.

Caught as it is in the triangle

deafened by its own shrieks.

It cannot escape.

The baggy black suit still hanging

in the closet is a universe away

from the trembling spirit pinched

between mirror, stove, wall,

where it can only tap tap

on the living sleeper’s shoulder

She wakes to tap tap,

no known presence, no known argument,

its life is all there in the tap tap,

books, rat poison, hallucinations of love

become tap tap, no more.





Ask me a question, mirror, she said, user to used,

until now you’ve only answered mine, and she laughed.

Her words and her laugh held a cruelty twisting between them.

—Where was the lonely room, asked the mirror,

    What was in it? What did you do there? I could never see it—

The room was secret, mirror, it’s still secret.

I tormented my enemies from there, pinned their spirits

to the night sky to hear them shriek, and the apple,

the comb, I made the poisons there in my secret room—

it’s a wormhole in the wood frame of a cracked mirror.

To come and go, I take the size of a deathwatch beetle.

Secret, mirror, secret, secret, it’s never lonely.

—The changes in size, surely they savage your spirit,

    the terror of being trapped between such forms, tell me,

    what is the nature, dimensions of that fearful space?—

She slammed the door quickly against its questions,

the image it would show her again of a stranger

who was wearing her clothes, combing her hair,

looking through her eyes, and no answer for that stranger

no sense of who the stranger had become between forms.





They’ve disconnected a moment before,

a space has opened between them.

They’re standing at angles to each other

and the lines run off into an infinity

of that newly made space in which

they will never meet.


He’s armored against the world

behind heavy tweed and leather,

feet solid on the rough ground

in thick-soled shoes

while her feet are awkward

on the sharp stones, over at the ankles,

her summer shoes thin-soled,

her coat too light for the cold wind.


Who caught her like this, bird on lime,

astray from herself, frail, he holding power,

staring angrily back through the photographer

and out into the world, while her look

is oblique, a shaken one, an interior gaze of pain?

She has tossed the knife of the answer

that would give her balance here on the stones,

and she has missed, and she’s adrift from herself,

shoulders a little hunched, spirit scrambled,

the princess of the folk tale stranded

near the northern sea in disarray on the sharp stones.





A small stretch of backbone

on a greasy leaf

points to a way on


The traveler takes a detailed

map of her city

when she leaves, intending

never to return


What? string dangling from the night

into a single bright light

the route up and down



A crooked smile opens

in a mound of pins

We hold our mouths in a certain way

even as we climb


The knot in the string

towards the sky end

if  I could reach it and tie it

the smile . . . the pins . . .


Street names hide the way

ahead, behind

In a bright northern light

the traveler spins null


Will the wooden clapper

not sound clack

against the wooden bell

draw us to the maze


What came from . . . ?

our mouths open, open

upon the last way.


©2003  Patricia Connolly


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