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.
where the spirit is trapped, fluttering.
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.
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
no known presence, no known argument,
its life is all there in the tap tap,
books, rat poison, hallucinations of love
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
points to a way on
The traveler takes a detailed
when she leaves, intending
What? string dangling from the night
into a single bright light
the route up and down
A crooked smile opens
We hold our mouths in a certain way
The knot in the string
if I could reach it and tie it
the smile . . . the pins . . .
Street names hide the way
In a bright northern light
Will the wooden clapper
against the wooden bell
What came from . . . ?
upon the last way.
©2003 Patricia Connolly