______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Lynne Knight-

Mastering the Dark

Stop spending so much time in the dark,
my mother said, insinuating sex
with the boy down the street, masturbation,
who knew. It was worse when I decided
to sleep nude. If the nuns could see you!
Poor nuns, wrapped like mummies in their linens.

Nothing was ever said directly, not by the nuns,
not by my mother. The book she gave me
at thirteen to teach about sex had such discreet,
unlabeled drawings that until I was eighteen,
I thought men had three penises. I soon learned
better, but the pity I felt for my first lover . . .

None of this matters now except the dark.
Dark matter makes up most of our universe,
yet we don’t know what it is or how it works
if it works at all. Maybe it’s just there
like the dark we’re all forced to negotiate,
sleeping with the lights on, refusing to go out at night—

the stars, the moon, let the fools have them.
My current method is to walk down the street
at night & up into the hills unlit by anything
but the stars & moon, where I take comfort
in the speed of light, forcing myself to imagine
the world going on, & me nowhere to be seen.

_______________

Anti ]those[poetics

This is what happened when it was
decided to hide everything under
the rubric of never never never never

never mentioning the dead grandmother
the bright fields well maybe
elliptically so maybe Elysian

no: nothing so retro as myth
or God forbid literary allusion

your knowledge working
against you (possibly

(do a bit of fancy work with ]
these[ because oh the cleverness the interest

of your little mind at work
hiding everything
or is it that you really have nothing more

to say or

][

this:
you do weep over your dead grandmother
and [ )&( ] if you had the chance would run
the bright fields forever

_______________

Fable with Body, Child & Doll

Sometimes a child comes along
with an old-leather look in her eye,
a quaver in her child’s Why?

When she takes out the cups
& saucers for tea, she’s mashing
her gums like biscuits.

Body watches the child
reconsidering her doll,
drawing a red-ink heart

where the heart should be,
scissoring it out. The stuffing
looks like old socks cut up.

Later, the child sews the hole shut
with black thread, insisting
the doll is improved.

She names it Charity.
Every time Body comes to visit,
she holds Charity out

then snatches it back. Ha ha!
she cries. It’s more a hiss, but Body
ignores this, for the mother’s sake.

After all, it’s not as if Body’s going to escape
time, either. Some nights Body dreams
her own death, becoming

a death doll, with a sock
plugged in the hole where once
was her heart. Body cries & cries

but nobody comes to stitch Body back up.
The child pours tea in a thimble cup.
She’s done sewing.

_______________

Childhood

That day the hills pulled green up from the root.
The aspens shook; the water, iced with snowmelt,

rushed the rocks you leaped to, crossing over.
Sunlight pierced the canopy of pines, the ferns

unfurled, & birds you didn’t know to name sang out.
How could you have known you would go home

to your mother shaken, her father ashen, the dream
that he would build his house beside you up in smoke,

your father said, braced with whiskey & the truth
he’d known for years: dreams weren’t intended

for anything but momentary escape from all
the sorrows that accumulate. & sorrow came:

the rapid death (a burst aorta), your mother’s ally
gone. You don’t need more of the story to grasp

how a day can begin in green yet end in ash,
but not without instruction for the heart—remember

all those moments in the woods, the birds singing,
the wind tossing shadows from the pines, the brook

so clear you might have read time passing there.

_______________

Teaching Sons & Lovers

I’d been married ten years when this began.
Then, every year, I said the same things
about Walter Moritz: he was not without
his good points, yet a man whose vigor was sapped
by his awareness, acute even when he was drunk,
of not being enough for his wife. So his love,
his body, both so robust, began to wither.
If you created an essentially pitiable character,
I said, you had to start with the positive, engage
the reader’s sympathy. Then I went home
to grade papers & drink until I couldn’t feel
the pain of speaking about my life so clearly.

_______________

Random Strategy

Wild turkeys swarm the neighbor’s bank,
pecking at all the new ivy shoots. Bark!
I tell the dog, who stands statue-mute
staring through the fence. Bark! Even my voice
fails to alarm them. Stupid birds, sauntering
down the road like people, waiting until a car
is almost upon them before straying from its path.
They’ve probably eaten all the impatiens
by the front gate & mangled the azaleas.
Anything bright, they’re on it. The neighbor
left his rhododendrons to die because they take
so much water, & we’re in a serious drought,
but one rhodie managed a sole blossom.
I dare one of the turkeys to fly up to it.
They peck & saunter, saunter & peck.
The dog loses interest. I check the time.
Eight minutes, & I haven’t thought of you.

_______________

Leave Me Alone

That was only the beginning of the end
Every moment is the beginning of the end

It’s hard to think this way, she thought
A noise like a rustling in the branch a crash an emptiness

Don’t go too far from the real, the therapist said

She heard her mother: Come back! Come back!
Oranges in a bowl picked by what worn hands
The shirt on her back stitched by what young girl

The world offered itself & she chose the house
on the street that had once been a lane

Come back! Come back!

The gods sank down into stars & went on burning

The work to be done had a name:
Mother

The work to be done had an open duration:
(Mother) Long-rooted weeds strewn across the lawn

The gods sank down into stars & went on burning
The moon hiked her skirts & slid into the bay
No hiss because she was all cold fire

When they step into boats the dead displace no water

Come back! Come back!

But she could relax
Her mother stood in the doorway on tentative feet

Go away first a whisper then not Go away

_______________

Prelude, with Wolves

Why throw your voice to the wolves?

I said I thought it was wind—
you threw your voice to the wind.

She looked out the window & shuddered.
Wolves at the door? I asked if she’d gone to the snow
where wolves roamed.

A dog is a wolf.

Yes, I agreed, domesticated, but—

I’m going crazy, aren’t I.
Still looking out the window. Did she see wolves
there, in the courtyard at Napa?

I shook my head. Not crazy, no.
What else was there to do?
Denial seemed wrong.
There were wolves of all sizes & shapes,
after all, & the dogs of the war
that gnawed her had no names.

_______________

Sky Drops. Forever Heather.

You can’t rely on echoes for the truth,
he said while we stood in the canyon
where we’d hiked all afternoon, naming
what wildflowers we could, inventing names
for the rest, Sky Drops, Forever Heather,
in between arguments over the nature
of things, namely love, which he claimed
as the primary illusion, Adam mistaking Eve
as his own likeness although no one believed

the story, at least no one with a discriminating
mind, he said, & I nodded, still back on love
as an illusion, because although I loved him,
or would have sworn I did, I’d never said
as much to him or anyone, he being a friend,
my best guy friend, I’d say to everyone,
including him. Sky Drops, Forever Heather,
& what did it matter anyway, he said,
since love would end in death no matter what.

But wasn’t that what we were here for,
I said, to take some of death’s great power
away with love—since love was one sure way
to feel you’d found a way to be immortal
as you swore to love forever. Just like I said,
he said: a total illusion. You mean the only
actual thing, the only reality is death? I asked.
That’s so gloomy. So depressing. At least
it’s not an echo, a hand-me-down feeling

or thought, he said. Don’t pride yourself
too much, I told him; death targets pride.
How’s that great sonnet go? Death be not
You can’t rely on echoes for the truth,
he interrupted. Here. Take this. He plucked
a nameless flower, held it out to me.
It’s Love, he said. Or Death. You choose.
I’ll always go for Love, I said. He smiled.
A loving smile, or so it seemed.

_______________

Not Phoenix, Not Portent

Nothing that happened could have been foretold.
The sages tried, the shaman scattered bones;
soothsayers roamed, reading the water,
reading the sky. But nothing came from the future
but silence, the great silence of the past
thrust forward into eternity. Or so people said.
Their words carried on air yet seemed small,
weak; the grandest orators felt themselves muted.
Soon darkness came, & the screams
of the forest, a rush like the pulse of a river.
People stood trembling. It was the end, they cried,

but the wind wrapped their cries into brittle leaves
& crushed them against empty buildings.
No one heard the fire begin. Afterward some swore
its roar seemed human at first, then animal,
but no one heard it begin. When the birds rose
from the ash, their wings heavy with ash,
so heavy they stood a long time trying to lift them,
lift into air, the lovers turned to each other
& wept at the unbearable weight of mortality,
their bodies working their codes while the birds
rose into the myth that some things go on forever.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Lynne Knight is the author of four poetry chapbooks and four full-length poetry collections, the most recent of which, Again, appeared from Sixteen Rivers Press. Her work has appeared in a number of journals, including Kenyon Review, Poetry and Southern Review. Her awards and honors include publication in Best American Poetry, the Prix de l’Alliance Française 2006, a PSA Lucille Medwick Memorial Award, the 2009 RATTLE Poetry Prize, and an NEA grant. I Know (Je sais), her translation with the author Ito Naga of his Je sais, appeared in 2013.

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Advertisements