- Poetry, Reading, Writing

Three Poems, by G. C. Waldrep


The Fern Cliff (V) (Seizure of the Waters)

to locate here: the tongue’s fluent seizure:
middling breath
of the oriole, serial warblers
glamming up the understory: pound for pound
portraiture’s a tawdry art:
seamless garment of the river’s steady flow
conjoined with the breeze, matter’s
argument with matter,
frottage or bricolage: my friend asked me
what, if anything, I miss when I read
a poem by Ammons, say, or Mary Oliver:
once again
it’s the crevice sleep carves out
of axial relations: galax
& running cedar on the far bank, not arguments
about God, not hardly:
to see a hand in them
is to mistake, as Ephrem noted, harp for harp:
what I miss is either harp, that music
construed or contused:
what the hand feels
when it presses the tool into the metal
is how Weil figured it, not a question
of physics: but of how physics
passes through us: a distant rooster’s bawl
is not an allegory, though perhaps
as with dogs near & far barking
it’s trespass
the world brings news of: if news: if world:
then the lapsed bond we admit
as citizenship: the fugitive motions captured
by night on some huntsman’s cam:
it’s slower, this broken
amplitude, within sight of the falls:
gravity’s gaudy shop
display: I stub my toe into the winch of it:
or, by right of solecism, messuage:
to dwell:
to linger, tarry, to view oneself in relation,
as relation: a rite compressed:
vagile deposit, sedimentary: I keep wanting
to plunge some aspect
of my body
into music’s sparse if corrective refrain:


The Fern Cliff (VI)

observe the waste of appetite: debris
spun as though from the thighbone
of a swan:
nothing has been abandoned
per se, that is, we have indeed abandoned
nothing, we have
departed from it: as from a spouse:
to be married to nothing, & then
to have formerly
been married (to nothing): I make a fist
in silence, & alone: just
to make it, to exercise my suffrage:
leaves a scrap of experience
at the temple’s gilt
collection box: duly incorporated
into such service as the priest on duty
may direct: we may be melted
to serve some king
in Babylon, or left to talk
among ourselves, as you will:
this quiet host:
insects: flies, lice, mites, the nymphs
of the deer ticks just gaining
their brief bearings
in the pageant: their thirsty majority,
prompts hissed from the wings:
vena cava or cloaca mundi:
I admit I once had friends, I liked
the idea of having friends:
& the friends themselves waving back
as the little boat
took them further out upon the water:


The Fern Cliff (VII)

the constitution the capillaries had signed,
their bold but tiny
paraphs: I conclude
all grass is as flesh, a friable burden:
it’s possible to work backward
from definitions
of God, perhaps we’d be
better off: register on the spectrum of joy:
which just as possibly we only,
being certified orphans, can perceive:
I touch nothing,
no, not even the reconstituted
foliage, the little workshops at my feet:
& yet I both taste
& am tasted:
this is an ode to possession, & possession’s
achieved presence: that drifts
against the splash boards of the body’s
earthen dam: hauled up in turn
with long steel rakes, matter announces
not the gray vole licking itself
inside its sandy burrow:
nor the broad ascension: surveillance
of the pulse’s measured fascicles:
I abandoned
the palace of windows
in order to attend this gaudy seance:
which is to say, Archie,
the Pentecostals
had more than a few things
right, you might have benefitted
from their uttermost: their sonatinas
of tongues:
how much more “natural”
can I, still in possession of all but four
of my original teeth,
be: a contour: perhaps an isocline:
map of the body thrown up
hard against the world’s
bronze parietal, my pockets turned
inside out: & then, yes, nothing
but the sound
of another dog barking: without reference
to the season, or to the solar flares:


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G. C. Waldrep is the author of Goldbeater’s Skin, Disclamor, Archicembalo, feast gently, and Testament; and Your Father on the Train of Ghosts (with John Gallaher). His chapbooks include The Batteries, One Way No Exit, Szent László Hotel, and Susquehanna. Waldrep’s editing projects include Homage to Paul Celan (with Ilya Kaminsky) and The Arcadia Project (with Joshua Corey). Waldrep lives in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, where he teaches at Bucknell University.

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