by Maureen Owen


Whenever I snow

I think of Black
when he was
pulling a cab

under a lamppost
his dark harness gathering flakes
a jet horse becoming white               powder

a dark horse


Goodbye to the Twentieth Century
Adios, Busy Signal

O Century    standing in the line of fire nbsp;  A lake
on the slope of a plate     danger in the silverware drawer    O chaos
of looming disaster               where there are pots & pans teetering
no heart in the ketchup     no second-guessing the mustard

O little beep beep beep              O  So  long
nothing about you means anything anymore    only lost opportunities
O hello automated answering systems of the future     call waiting     O
voice mail      O pay phone at the frantic airport relaying delayed messages
"We're busy signal free," he said.       banishing forever       the busy signal

Traditionally   we were either there    or   we weren't
Now we can begin at the window      in a puddle of midnight
or sway in buckling air     a symbol of currency and decor
puffs rise out of the sugar bowl       Salt Spews

For most people the truly upsetting thing seemed to be
that Marilyn Monroe was home    alone    on a Saturday night
O she who was found dead       nude    in bed with a telephone
the lyrical hiccup of the busy signal    tunneling her through the dark



her                      hat blew off
it                  happened a long time ago when you were small

Your arms describing angles on the      black sheets      at
each side of your head      guardians of abstraction      my
love has 2     minds is      of 2 minds          two      I
thought I saw your two minds then      your two minds      both
of them in two heads      going in different directions
entirely      &      I thought          here's what      I thought    What if
we were walking and we      thought      about something      that
might      have been going to happen          but didn't          we
thought it would have happened if we      hadn't been      there
thinking about it          & we wanted          to go back to a former
time          & not interfere      but the woman on the news just
said that         "Many homeless people don't have furniture! . . . "
&      you are on your way out      into a rouge pigment spread
haphazard      on chunks of blue air         Nothing!     say the
stars frozen into chips         nothing says their dark blanket
& soon you will be driving      through      Edward Hopper's
Cape Cod Evening          where only the dog looks happy



Now This Vague Melancholy

Now this vague melancholy adores          me
of hours spent in your facade
it's best described as she can
if she could         likewise bitterly
since the forecast dented
with         our diner window cut in two
        , as if her life

her life dissolving
in what had been agreed
not to tell to one another
what was   is the danger
the story of the stories
And      this melancholy.

if then we couldn't stretch the seams
of our need      while being chatty
we could discuss
                 long into noted
all else
sweet melancholy      dished
each by itself   into a darker   ness
where the hangover begins before midnight
& I could talk to you forever
for no good reasons science could explain
for we are two of repelling cogs
set in their motion fast by some diligent
terrain rising flat as the prairie
as a word    I fell in love with you    then
with a word    can such a thing be done
because of a word    you said    Nebraska
& all the chairs drew back their doors
& all the floors burst into flame
& in the night a single fire swept
swept through it all      &   I woke kneeling on
charred ground      & it was as the saint




They can't handle the day shift                       or
                                    vespertinal jockeys

she was thinking    "I could just spit"
I could get falling down substance abused
I could burn myself with a cigarette      I
could smoke      a cigarette        I could disguise myself
as mayhem        I could turn on the dancers     I
could stomp out the bluffs where they press
their lips together     & stare at the fat moon from
their snotty embrace     O half-baked idea!
rising a thousand years out of chalk dust          &
pleated yellow light      I could search for the
same weather      compare time to Paradise
a face in a window       patient & eager
as the beloved appears       to hit the road
temperature & the economy      the walls of state

but you could look all day &
not find a weasel in the desert

must love constantly remind love that it is
love          for the many we are not      Shout
in a parking lot          they are the same people
dodging a dark glance from an exlover's eyes
the visual spectrum arches
stars gather under their sleeping bodies      mattresses
wonder what they were really meant to be

Sometimes it's not who you're with
but what happens to you when you're with them
Petals from the pear tree blossoms whirled around
her head      humidors flew open
she had been living in someone else's house
on someone else's avenue
in someone else's relationship
for someone else's dream
& now
she was leaving




the trampling of the Prince      was in all the papers
to wait singed hours in the wideness outside a window
he comes and stands in the crocuses
    priceless tapestry gathers on his thigh
    he is trying to pick out a castle
& so the secret pewter debacle      the handsome garage
the flamboyant pump      the sultry beauty of the woodpile
the gorgeous stumpage and knobby-kneed lumps of moss
the clothesline a litany      in Latin

so shadow of a shadow seen running
tumbling forward          giddy of dreadful swooning
wrongful capacity he said he had to turn the jar
inside out     to get at it          arresting it was nature
to have come this far      ours is only the space between
the paint          & when it sings it sings like the logic of gasping
it cajoles our urge to hear

Big shoes abandoned in boredom          have leveled the Prince!
the media    all of its strangers    goes home
now flawlessly they straddle the walls of the estate
like holiness the singed hours fall
there is no answer they know how to wait for
they always come here




I was skiing along the edge of the soccer field      looking
all legs      when I saw a neighbor          straight out of an
Ingmar Bergman film skiing toward me          As we passed in a stark
moment of wind-whipped snow I said      referring to my nascent
status on skis    "I'm just learning"   —   "We all are" he said with
a nod      and glided on



                           or I tripped on a crown of thorns    crossing the yard      or
                                         everything goes into the big stew      that is you

O Saint
Cecilia    stripped with wounds
ribbons of green & sea green    all gilt's golden
chipped & peeling    Taffeta shroud
O    Saint Cecilia!    How
how diversified is
your portfolio

O Saint Cecile
soft folds to cushion the bridge of your nose
quietly broken      your ivory skin     raked in a pattern
tucked in a virtue saint of dropped futures          Basilique
right in Toulouse-Lautrec's hometown!
left to perfection now a
scarf of blood to wrap your hair
to cradle your face   forehead   all quietly broken
your cream painted skin

O   Cecilia
what violence left a sleeper so    dreaming in plaster
stretched in   mute pigment
window still as a glaze     of
itself        Patron saint    of leaves hammered into a steel grey sky!

enameled martyr

O     Saint Cecilia!   who will not be back     onlyin this
sensuous paste
how diversified
how diversified is

your portfolio



darkness sprang the swans    from the shellacked pond

a kind of plum    blue gum
veins through skin
steel at twilight         thin milk
vapor         over a soggy ground

breasts in motion in Matisse's          Goldfish and Sculpture

from outside the sun has chewed through the stucco and laths
& now        waits at the far end of the room    a gold bar    of light
mixed into a flat paint        where somehow leaves are withdrawing

up a flesh-colored widening funnel      tho
the misanthropic orange fish     in the green glass cylinder
don't give a hoot    what you say to me in my dreams          Matisse
has stuck some flowers in a fancy vase   and painted a short green shelf
I haven't mentioned      with what seems to be a tiny glazed window
above it               & shoveled all      model flowers fish foliage heat     &
into a heap      in the center of the canvas        brushing azure everywhere     else         in a
flurry over walls    table & floor       to cool off!       the moment       the
passion     of objects        the scorching afternoon outside     impasto!   no!

How calm the cafes have become now!
the smallest margins of the seams    glow    through      an eerie iridescence    palms                                                                  a man follows a woman with a jar on her

head      though the stalls in a foreign city      that same day
a sand painting is destroyed   on the boulevard          coming out of
their skin and hair on fire          the shape of the limbs      into the crowd

come together     in an argument of form

     a real outlaw is      much better without the tie

like the broken asphalt of a deserted school yard
the flowers are a pool of blue water      under my skin
   you've gotten       under my skin



I can't imagine what is keeping me up      or
                                                                                        a slab of      vision

girl with a jar on her head
fellow with a stuffed bird on his
tourists who began arriving        couldn't resist
asking to buy a water jug right off        a woman's head

ebony nightcloth lifted sideways        bends a destination
fragrant        curls hanging over a keyboard    a truncated portraiture often
funerary in purpose    what future planned with teacup and logger boots
that time we were dying    we had figured out how our time was short
now the cut had almost totally healed      since the day before the day
she had slipped         the newly sharpened blade out of the pie      &
across her underknuckle

Reality is the last word in illusionism      when the lifelike figure stretches
its limbs and rises      the amazing magical trick is over      it is simply
a real person

it was that color that night is      when you can't see anything          dark
carved out      in 3-dimensional form      a stone object      blockish
black stacked up      where he had returned      & left again
the sand painter had deliberately changed the designs    so that
the painting was no longer sacred.        and the order of the streets
covering now        any trace of him

nobility is the furthest from here     he will take a walk in the park
I think I shall become formidable     I shall sentence all who have betrayed me
shall they be      allowed      to defend their extraordinary degrees of illusion
to Madonnas and saints       roses pressed against their chests
every mole & flaw     every pronoun   stripped down to resemble its foe
We will understand the purpose of clothing then     and how it came
to take the place of skin        tattoos under layers of fabric     scars submerged
plunged under          her headdress



I don't suppose the nieces could ever be more serious than they were tonight

Pope Paul has cleared the way      for          dozens
of martyrs to become saints          what can you say about a situation like
that          today     people I hadn't seen     in any permanent manner
backed up to go the wrong way to talk to me

&Don't the feathered kachina dance          between

the boy says he didn't mean to do it          &wants to know          when
you photographed Astor Place in 1947          &        I was sorting wet stones
he can carry red tulips again          the mother says her son needs counseling        &she's
trying to regain custody      from an aunt
   in that deep puddle in the gravel drive          the one that held my favorites
soaked to a high gloss
&where's the dad besides being in lilacs          his lawyer says he's contacted      at
least 20 companies      about a book      a movie deal
the railroad track looks like stitches from the hybrid roses of the air

&Who is this famous redhead?      Woodpecker          doll of the underworld

O! When you shot Astor Place in 1947 with your best lens
& none of those being photographed knew      this was how they would look

&if I am in the walking     I will cross unto the triangle where the subway waits for me
already the token is annoying



                                                 "and watched the sun come rising
                                                  from that little Minnesota town."


The Wounded Day

To all appearances they came          hats& coats
left smoldering in the rain under the skin          that map of
land we'd traverse eventually          & left to our own devices We
would      tunnel into the brain of June bugs
& disclose all that we found

in California my mother said

     start someplace where you are figuring it out
wait for a clarity to form in the dusk & turquoise light
the world's first moth-eaten plan          will solve all your problems
right from the start which you can't go back to by the way      but you can
because you grow         because you grow up      You can no longer
you can no longer          you can no longer     reply



                                                                                             for Hannah Weiner

Secrets of the Cover Girl
                             or    the Fair & square silk ribbon in the middle of the road

I can swim but I can't fly

puce aurora borealis
lake in a storm blue or gun metal grey
sunset lemon
raspberry & billowed us
brushing horses
ochre or salmon spread thin
the little mirror beside my grandmother's bed

the woman got up to fix the projector
the family bunny      the family pony the family washcloth

now the dark sizzles with insect life
sulfurous yellow moon in the black leaves

on theory   take a bit that interests you and chew
But don't just stand there
how stunning you are,
Nature     in   yr gorgeous hypnotic violence

one doesn't simply live in the world one must continually read it
in cut-out letters
on the faces of friends
Audrey Hepburn wore a size 10 shoe all her adult life
the glistening instep          a white-glazed terra-cotta
"Sheffield Pure Milk" bottling plant

and Hannah Weiner won't ever tap me on the shoulder at the Ear Inn again



a group of girls from Minnesota

                           or                black mascara

Not trees trace so          just kids we      hung
slim buckets of choke cherries from our wrists

in neighboring galaxies      Giant Star Factories      take control
composed of cold hydrogen gas and dust

7,000          light years from earth
slender-toed geckos          step onto the moon

On the road between 2 baptisms and a shower they rang
to say      shallow water          the mouths drop open

not where you stand but how long you can
stand standing there
in constant hypothesis

the trees are passers by
damp light
flat orange moon
velvet navy-blue sky

fire berries
from here we see the beautifully attired drive tough Ford pick-ups

the oncoming
organizing principle
brushed out

the dancers take turns leaping over the bonfire      into
Que pasa USA?

haircuts in London are really pretty backward
London ... you are definitely not going to have a manicure there!
in LA toes must match the hands or else just don't leave the house
in NY it's more brunette

Outside          a refrigerator          floats      in the blackness          shiny amid sharp stars

& the turtle who holds up the world          holds up
the world



In the winter
               we have sleeves
but in the summer
               we have arms

I have become friends              with the man
who talks to himself
sometimes      we      wait for a train          or
disembark at the same station          folding          watching
the trees          languid      dense      rolling upward          then backing over themselves

The way Vanessa Bell painted portraits of all Clive Bell's mistresses      Slow
brushing      the light          Nearby
Virginia Woolf reclines in a deck chair      reading Story without a Name—for Max Ernst. c. 1942
four sets of four      full of all size sounds
on the steps
of      Our Lady of Pompeii           Church
no one asks her to move!          not injured Christian soldier nor injured Knight in a work shirt back
from the Holy Wars    the Crusades      claims    the church for France      For      local folk For Little
Italy for the sake of God for God's sake!          for the hull of the ship was human
the way water & fire look alike          do they?

past the pewter rims of my glasses

The inlets are beautiful
tonight,          the waters done      in subtle chalks and water paints
neon signs sizzle          in the dusk          By the time I arrived at Duncan Grant's
"Still Life with Eggs 1930"      I realized      I was quite hungry



                                                                             for Kyran

"Every ship is a romantic object, except that we sail in."
                                             —R.W. Emerson

My Little Sister's Mercedes

Winter time frost on the
crater wall      & dark sand
dunes on the floor

happy birthday      it's your birthday
you say the ay is full of white sails
on a blue sky

the scholars
are back in the tombs      or on the haunted
fields of Gettysburg

a woman waiting for the #6
on the subway platform      had a copy
tucked under her arm

moon at the power of 241 candles per foot
the students put their satellite in the
back of the pickup & drove
to the air force base for testing

Sunlight makes the backwater sluice
go cornflower
& the stiff rusty reeds of the marsh

then the dream spoke
she knew     it was      Life with      who
took no notice of her as a woman

showing up unbidden and unannounced
mute rains begin to pillow the deep snow
for instance, the fabric didn't come from a store

L'Egypte      circa 1940
12 corked pristine bottles
marbled end papers
tiny spoons



Nearly Snowing

(now the wash of white
falls like a drape or curtain
a thin linen over the
small forest      at the edge      of the field)

or    "We've had a rather
stormy autumn in space, which has been great for checking out our instruments."

the snow enters the grey and umber forest
from above
and so amid the trunks of trees that bear no resemblance to themselves as seen
in sleek and headdress

a mauve pale as hushed washes
snow in the grey and umber afternoon
thin white linen          flung
over trees      at the edge of the field

sit   amid the grey and umber trunks
before the long journey
sit   in the grey and mauve afternoon
the umber trunks

wash of mauve    pale as hushed choirs fills the branches
dense white mist

a wash of white
falls like
thin linen over the
small edge     of the field


The ion and electron monitors were turned on several months ago in preparation for their role during solar-wind collection. The monitors communicate with Earth frequently and will give periodic solar-wind weather reports. "It has been exciting watching the space weather so far," said Dr. Roger Wiens of Los Alamos National Laboratory, N.M., head of the team that operates the instruments. "We've had a rather stormy autumn in space, which has been great for checking out our instruments."



                                            "I think that having spent my life trying to hide everything from
                                            everyone, I've ended up by no longer being able to find many
                                            things myself. —Paul Bowles

on the brow of
a little moss
where no one lives         or
                                                brushing horses


who sees the horse of bafflement      a color so desperate
who knows the tone of your extent
O inventor of the man of your dreams!
take off your glasses! and let the scenery drip toward the sea
         where it will take care of itself

Humans are not the regular diet of bears
humans are not in a bear's diet
said the deep furred bear
to the woman      in the tree

a horde of pigeons were pecking around his feet
he did not say how long it would last

moon through lace      curtain
through lacy locust branches

moon in a circle of
locust limbs
all day I thought about      the different ways of telling a story
a particular story      one that was true      then the

               Milky Way

               sparkling like coins
                       diamonds have gathered under the leaves

where the boy is temporarily
Don't try to solve the problem
               rather ponder the events
               snack food for the fishes
               small stones

now bored by everything she once held sacred O dear
becoming the solitary figure from behind      staring flat at sea
embedded wind and spray      and the whippet reeds of the marshes
Was bored the right word?      pursed lips
a language stuck in the mud      camera bashed on the barnacles tiny
snails everywhere      tiny snails everywhere      tiny snails everywhere!
gulls screeching at them!      tide taking everything back

let it go away      the sway of wonderment     rolled      out like a carpet

because          I ate

                      all the money,




What Shape Rhapsody

tomorrow      apparently      it will
snow even more fiercely
the carriage house roof has collapsed      under the weight
winter is not over      I telephone
the furnace service for the third time
this week.    After each repair the
fumes are worse than ever          at least
we have the wood burning stove      and wood to split
albeit it's dark      wet          tho all the piping in the pantry
will probably freeze anyway      we've had the hair dryer
on them very night          Why not
leave them dripping?      But the drains freeze up
& those upstairs present a flood to all our books below
pots & towels must be rushed in          Now even
the washing machine hums without moving

Yes      the invincible storm door has broken
water pipes both hot & cold are frozen everywhere
all of us have fallen at least once on the corona of silk
frozen sheen      gleaming & cruel      en route to jeep & pickup
the path to the barn between two dwarf glaciers
& the ice in      the pony's      bucket went
clear to the bottom          solid
and rolled out in the shape of a carved
hat          from a winter carnival
the air's
as cold as breaking glass      so dry at night
the crystals spark & sizzle      as if
the dark was full of fireflies          the
solitary cat      camps in the hayloft
this morning a stalk of green alfalfa
stuck out of his tail          plumish
&      oddly disturbing



. . . certainty of being is concentrated, and we have the impression that . . .

deep deeper deep
the flagstone marsh
the flagstone marshes these
the deep
the do you
the do you want it to be true
do you want it to be true
do you want it to be true
do      you      do you want it to
be true      you do
you do something to me
you do something
to me      do you want it to be true
do you want it to be true
what do you want it to be
do you want          is it want
do you want
does want want you to want what is want any way
Anyway what is want anyway
want means you have to have it or
you die
too painful to live and not get
get what you want too
painful to live you die
and not get what you want
this is painful to want
I want you to want me
I want you to want me this
is what I want
and if I got what I wanted you would want me
you would want me          to want you
Then we could progress
we could
progress by wants' wants
small curved flagstones set in a
rural environment
smooth rounded wants that we can step
on as we walk up from the boathouse
having just climbed
slightly damp and springy
out of the rowing boat
the lovely wooden skiff
now moored      on the marsh



"Mythology tells us that where you stumble, that's where your treasure is."                                                                                                   —Joseph Campbell


Balmy skitterish night          now
2 a.m.          Insects singing, breezes
fluttering sweet hay & grasses in my
little attic window          a car door slams
at Carrie & Debbie's next door
calm & coolish airs sweep softly
outside I hear the airs pick up
& toss the trees
frogs & crickets & bugs of the night sing


last nights of summer
last balmy      breezes      of      summer      under the window

last balmy breezes through summer's window screen
moths gone          june bugs fled          mosquitoes removed
from the evening

Mosquitoes removed from the evening      moths gone
June bugs fled      lone cricket    &
the 2nd cutting of hay      last balmy breezes
through summer's window screen




                                                    after W.C.W.


She comes in after midnight
she eats the last of the pasta
she does the dishes
What a deal!
No leftovers

Forgive me          Excuse me
I drank the rest of the champagne
it was still bubbly
        (I had to light a candle in
        the darkened kitchen)
it went right to my head
I hadn't had lunch or dinner

jets of gas & dust shoot from all sides of the
comet's nucleus as it rotates a quarter turn

& in the darkened kitchen
I had to light a candle      to
the virgin in her prime
by now she was to me like
a suspect in a mystery

catching atoms
from the solar wind          a treasured smidgen of the sun

never mind
the champagne was cold
& full of tiny spheres


Copyright © 2006 by Maureen Owen
From Erosion's Pull, published by Coffee House Press.

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