poems by Carolyn Srygley-Moore

A Question of Durability

 1)
The durability of red origami sailboats, lit paper folded by my grandfather’s
War-pitted hands – hands I scarcely remember, though I recall the water

Licking my sunburnt elbows. The sun was already going down, swiftly
Down, the green shadows faltering in order to gather me into their nave.
& although I could have asked the passage it seemed, to me then, I was

Already lost to the compass. As you are lost, my friend, who visits then
Vanishes then visits again, as the dead come to visit the grave: I ask you,

2)
Bear the mirror before your face, so my reflection might perish & you
Will visit no more. Yet here you are, again, manhood swimming in light

Glancing off skins of pears: what could be more wondrous than this?
You & I, we have come from the place to which we are going: the here-
After, be it heaven or hell. The priest loans us flowers…True, the instant

Is more invincible than the flung utterance, the pit of which manifests
Indecency, the denuded red grooves of the inward yield. & we fall, to

3)
Fall again, this time grotesquely. To fail better, as Beckett said. & I am
But a poor carnival barker where everything seems, seems…Even they

Who are dressed to kill, even murder itself, the knife blade plunging
In & out of the ribcage where wings beat, as a circle of watchers laugh,
Beer at hand…Seeming, yes, more durable than the red sailboat, than

The grandfather’s hands, the crush of time’s folds & unfoldings. Rely
Rather on the drug deal around the next ride, children observing…

Staying up all Night

1)
on the path to the Yukon
like a denuded man buckled in the passenger seat
my dog’s ashes, cradled in a blue thriftshop urn, keep my company

I spend a sleepless night at a rest area lying on my back
staring up at a browning crabapple tree
hungry for even its bitterness

my eyes & hands ample with emptiness
I twine fishing line round my wrists, twine from a fisherman
long lost at sea

knowing: the spoke of time is a wound

2)
I am wrapped in a blanket on being pulled
from the water
while remembering nothing past impact – told only

I almost drowned
I fork mustard sardines from a tin

the speech of time is hunger
the speech of time is the wound

3)
I stay up all night watching the snowy fields
unfold into a certain liberty
I feed raw shrimp to the dead dog

my daughter nestles singing on my lap

we used to talk all night in the front room on Calvert Street
how we dearly love the ones most
who have hurt us dearly

wanting only to fall asleep finally
as the avalanche launches comets above us

wanting only to be frozen without choice
like the inhabitants of Pompeii

4)
fear is a place
where the landscape dwarfs or is dwarfed

& its muscles are tiny musicbox windows
opening in the body
the neurons entangling like tango dancers

thorned tea roses clenched in their glittering teeth

when I finally fall asleep
I will hear the voices that everyone hears
amidst the sweeping cadence of moonlight

I will be taken away by the green trails of stars
by the snow-tracks of deer & origin’s wolf-howl of my dead dog

by the inventor of water & of war & of HIV

Drawing Lessons

He carried train schedules from the past stuffed in his shirt pocket
with tree petals – & taught me, learn to love the taste
of lemons; it will make you strong, he’d say
            while pruning the lilac’s blooming bough
with erratic swoops of the Shakespearian scythe; & we’d wade
the golden grasses behind a fire-gutted barn where
he taught me how to draw in exchange for yoga asanas.

How weak do you think you really are? he would ask, again
& again; would you succumb to revenge, rage,
hunger – the need for flight? You may be right, he’d say,
            but you are most likely wrong…
For you have dispelled the robbers in your dreams, those
who held your wrists as you tried to fight, those
who held your ankles as you struggled to board the train –

Kidnappers bind our mouths with duct-tape, with terror, with
regret; true, he said, our love may be neither new
nor old, but scatters like stones
            that we may find our way back through the wars
of time, back, back to the sea, mouthing
the lemon wheel crowning our tea.

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