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Three Poems, by Julie Agoos

 

Excursus (1)

More houses greet daylight

as it careens off course

and enters wherever it can from east/each

 

fissure of sleep in a narrow range of

jays and nuthatch trawling a low-

skirted beech of law dropped down/again

 

as even moonlight drops in rain’s light

aftermath/in torn brown paper/streamed

from air’s high gutters/lookouts where/

 

separate enough to count, breathe

through labor statutes torn from a block/now

dropped as someone writes a letter to neighbors uphill

 

seeking between this house and the other

as clouds/pass over the flag on the rutted lawn

and flammable loyalties/discounted/leap

 

and signal his arrival and cross the span

of lake bereft of houses/doubled down

in the mirror’s clarity of porchlights dimmed

 

as midnight swims once/into mind and crowds/

the air where the demagogue leans/over himself/

the water filled now with only his voice.

 

Excursus (II)

Keep moving, the cloud says, time is scarce
in the (promise of) words that come from the seat of power.

No time but (this) pressure to discard
a vox populi no longer recognized. To stay

as we are or thought we were, all else destroyed,
however, would mean to bear the consequence—

so runs the logic (Bourdieu) of capital:
Hurry up, move on/the markets drag their stalls

onto the town/greens: the banners read: we are all
the same in transience, and all the same in “presence

in the world,” whereas eternity is “out of bounds,”
for “nothing is larger than death” (for some).

As when reward and punishment become the image
of nations (Fichte); duration and transience meaning this dread.

 

Excursus (III)

I come to the window
as if to that territory
to see shelters outlining
the lake’s own boundary;

“compelled to treat
the future as a threat,”
I might otherwise
have reasonably felt myself

forbidden to look out,
imagining devastation haunting,
like fog over near hills
diffusing once more

the small cities and towns,
local and nameable,
as somewhere else
dissent hammered

its iron, cast
from mundane use to
a cooking pot,
a horse-drawn plow,

facts in the full
weight of doing,
improbable spring
bringing these things

one by one into
the frame: weapons, armor.
Synecdoche of everywhere,
the required voice

answers repeatedly
to focus, before nightfall,
first heat, then hell
in frieze.

 

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Julie Agoos is the author of four collections of poetry: Above the Land, winner of the Yale Younger Poets Prize (selected by James Merrill); Calendar Year; Property, recipient of the Brooklyn College/CUNY Creative Achievement Award); and Echo System. Recipient of a Briggs Copeland Fellowship and the Lloyd McKim Garrison Poetry Prize from Harvard University, the Grolier Poetry Prize, the Towson State University Prize for Literature, and the Frost Place Residency Fellowship, she is Professor of English and coordinator of the MFA Program in Poetry at Brooklyn College/CUNY. She lives in Nyack, NY.

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