pencil :: marianne boruch

My drawing teacher said: Look, think, make a mark.
Look, I told myself.
And waited to be marked.

Clouds are white but they darken
with rain. Even a child blurs them back
to little woolies on a hillside, little
bundles without legs. Look, my teacher
would surely tell me, they’re nothing

like that. Like that: the lie. Like that: the poem.
She said: Respond to the heaviest part
of the figure first. Density is
form. That I keep hearing destiny

is not a mark of character. Like pilgrimage
once morphed to mirage in a noisy room, someone
so earnest at my ear. Then marriage slid.
Mir-aage, Mir-aage, I heard the famous poet let loose
awry into her microphone, triumphant.

The figure to be drawn —
not even half my age. She’s completely
emptied her face for this job of standing still an hour.
Look. Okay. But the little

dream in there, inside the think
that comes next. A pencil in my hand, its secret life
is charcoal, the wood already burnt,
a sacrifice.

hospital :: marianne boruch

It seems so—
I don’t know. It seems
as if the end of the world
has never happened in here.
No smoke, no
dizzy flaring except
those candles you can light
in the chapel for a quarter.
They last maybe an hour
before burning out.
                        And in this room
where we wait, I see
them pass, the surgical folk—
nurses, doctors, the guy who hangs up
the blood drop—ready for lunch,
their scrubs still starched into wrinkles,
a cheerful green or pale blue,
and the end of a joke, something
about a man who thought he could be—
what? I lose it
in their brief laughter.

nest :: marianne boruch

I walked out, and the nest
was already there by the step. Woven basket
of a saint
sent back to life as a bird
who proceeded to make
a mess of things. Wind
right through it, and any eggs
long vanished. But in my hand it was
intricate pleasure, even the thorny reeds
softened in the weave. And the fading
leaf mold, hardly
itself anymore, merely a trick
of light, if light
can be tricked. Deep in a life
is another life. I walked out, the nest
already by the step.

water at night :: marianne boruch

Not that I understand things.
Angels don’t walk toward the ship, old engraving
where moon throws
a river of light, how angels would walk the ocean
if they wanted to walk.
They don’t. They hover. A lot of space
between them and what
shines like waves. Which can’t
be a choice, for angels or
the engraver who was in fact
Gustave Doré after sleeping off
the ancient mariner Coleridge left behind under
guilt and regret and an albatross’s weight.
Which isn’t much, but they are
big animals, four feet across counting
the wind involved
and rain. Doré waking to a room not
really of wings. I guess
a stirring, something in the black expanse
he hoped to razor into
the copper plate — no, a graver,
not a razor at all.
Beauty does terrify, a bare nothing
but stop. As in angels. Abrupt.
Still, to cut them their flight on metal
takes a while. His hands stiff,
Doré under a deadline no doubt like the small
endlessly later rest of us
do what we do and do until
it’s not what we do.
Nevertheless, angels. Why did they
keep coming, one by one radiant
dark of a mind paused to
this most desolate given: water at night.
That it floods a future not
even in the picture.

the mermaids :: marianne boruch

The spell is a mouth’s
perilous-o as they dark circle the boats in
their most resplendent pliable armor.

The concept fish aligning with girl
or love with death
to bring down men at sea, temptation

confused into offering,
the mismatch of like plus unlike
really likes, straight to rock bottom.

No equation has ever been this badass.
It’s the men who will enter the spell
so far into exhaustion as weather, as waves,

the tide pulling toward if, letting go then
over the whale road in the company of
the dolphin, the only other animal, I’m told,

who can do it solely for pleasure. It.
You know what I mean. The lower half
aglitter, the top half brainy as beautiful

is sometimes, murderous lovelies, their plotting
and resolve and why not
get these guys good, the lechers.

To see at all in the whirling, to hear
what anyone might
in wind roar and faint whistle — 

don’t worry about girls shrewd
as whimsy, legend-tough
to the core. Don’t. But it’s

their spell too, isn’t it? Locked there.
Aligned with singing, dazzle
razor-blackened green. Not that they

miss what human is like or know any end
to waters half born to, from where
they look up.

Men in boats, so sick of the journey.
Men gone stupid with blue,
with vast, with gazing over and away

the whole time until same to same-old to
now they’re mean. After that, small.
Out there, the expanse. In here,

the expanse. The men look down. Aching
misalignment — gorgeous
lure that hides its hook steely sweet

to o my god, little fool’s breath
triumphant, all the way under and am I
not deserving?

the book of hand shadows :: marianne boruch

An eagle and a squirrel. A bull and a sage.
All take two hands, even the sheep
whose mouth is a lever for nothing, neither
grass nor complaint. The black swan’s
mostly one long arm, bent
at the elbow but there’s always feathers
to fool with. Front leaf: a boy
with a candle, leaning curious while
an old man makes
a Shakespeare. The small pointed beard
is a giveaway.
                    I always wanted to, especially
because of the candle part. How the eye is finally
a finger bent to make an emptiness. Or that
a thing thrown up there
is worlds bigger than how it starts. So I liked
the ceiling better than the wall, looking up
where stars roamed and moon sometimes
hovered, were the roof lost,
were we lucky
and forgot ourselves.

the body :: marianne boruch

has its little hobbies. The lung
likes its air best after supper,
goes deeper there to trade up
for oxygen, give everything else
away. (And before supper, yes,
during too, but there’s
something about evening, that
slow breath of the day noticed: oh good,
still coming, still going … ) As for
bones—femur, spine,
the tribe of them in there—they harden
with use. The body would like
a small mile or two. Thank you.
It would like it on a bike
or a run. Or in the water. Blue.
And food. A habit that involves
a larger circumference where a garden’s
involved, beer is brewed, cows
wake the farmer with their fullness,
a field surrenders its wheat, and wheat
understands I will be crushed
into flour and starry-dust
the whole room, the baker
sweating, opening a window
to acknowledge such remarkable
confetti. And the brain,
locked in its strange
dual citizenship, idles there in the body,
neatly terraced and landscaped.
Or left to ruin, such a brain,
wild roses growing
next to the sea. The body is
gracious about that. Oh, their
scent sometimes. Their
tangle. In truth, in secret,
the first thing
in morning the eye longs to see.

he was touched or he touched or :: marianne boruch

He was touched or he touched or
she did and was, or they were
and would. Or the room could, its
three doors, two windows or

the house on a slant touching,
touched by the drift down street, cars
pressing quick or slowing. All along
the town touched a river, the river

the filth falling through it. What was clean—
a source pure as rumor—a shore
touching lake touched by wind above,
and below, a spring. All touch blindly

further water. That blue touching
blacker regions in the sea so weirdly
solitary, each to under, to every
sideways past deeper, where nowhere.

From Poetry; February 2009