My wife’s marmalade is the best I’ve had. She peels and crushes
the oranges herself, and for days
the house smells of oranges’ beaten golden pulp. Under her persistent hands,
the fruit submits. It becomes a vivid concentrate,
textured with rind. Stored in jars,
it will keep for months.
Johnson used to make a drink for himself
at our Club, with water and muddled oranges. With a spoon he crushed the segments
down in the glass. Fishing out the peels, he put them quickly
in his pocket—it seemed he didn’t want to be discovered, though his dirty coat
smelled guilty as oranges. I made a bet with a lady,
who didn’t think me man enough
to ask him why he kept the pieces. It was one of his obscure compulsions.
My store of notes was still growing
in those days, rising in ragged pillars in my stonewalled study, away in Scotland
where I’d compile them. Johnson’s voice, unmistakable, kept sounding
through me. When he died, I was in Edinburgh. He left me nothing.
On the morning I dared
to ask him, I stood over his writing-desk, my pen ready. I saw the peels
in a neat stack atop his diary. Under pressure, my friend admitted
his great liking for orangepeel. I noted down his strange unwillingness
to answer freely. Each peel was scraped and dried,
and cut into thin pieces. What he did with them next, he could not be prevailed upon
to tell. Firmly as always, he pressed my expression into vigor
and correctitude: he could not be prevailed upon,
even by his dearest friends, to tell. My pages smell of citrus, still.
Listen to Sarah Johnson discuss “Mr. Boswell Peels An Orange” below…
All day he labours, polishing the plate
(small, nondescript, whose eyes illuminate
his workman’s face), picks up the burin, starts
to etch out in reverse all but the heart
of what he sees, carves worlds in words,
carves tigers, devils, chimney-sweeps and birds.
Varnish and ink and acid-bath stand by,
then, day’s work done, he walks in Peckham Rye
and sees the new-leaved trees through tired eyes,
each leaf a green-winged angel on the sky.
Where the waters cut the gorge cut strata of soft stone where granite
resists and holds itself against the water
where the waters drop in sheets across the rock steps then plunge
in white cascades
like moving ice the liquid of glacial rumbling froths and pounds stone
a heavenly and timeless pressure
the pull of the spin of the moon the star rise the unfathomable magnetism
of polar caps stretching the planet
there beside this monument of the elements we sit
father and daughter in the misted air
miraculous as geology, as history in stone that survives
that we have survived our lives.
Water is clear and moves and you see through turbulence
the struts and buttresses
granite and shale holding up the pounding of dropping water
the skeletal arches cradling
the pounding heart and still peer with the unchanged look of a wordless
now with words across time where air and water and stone
a woman writes philosophy where elements of truth and ethics,
the construction of worlds, are ideas
living off the page as real as the water falling and the mists rising
here capturing light
where surgent waters have cut away the earth
we sit centuries below the surface.
There’s light and reflection, sound and respite from sound
and a moment’s pause together.
The silver-bottomed leaves of the nearby willows turn to tell us more
about the mists and breezes that pass
as if all the lives that have made us packed into the helixes
of our genes come unsprung
dozens of relatives are watching us murmuring questions
in many languages the rabbi
the pharmacist from Minsk the dime-store merchant from Brooklyn
the venetian blind maker from Jersey
all with held breaths perplexed trying to explain
the origins of this scholar
who has hiked through a gorge with her father in Tennessee—
Not all rocks
are alive. Or
so I’ve read.
Someone I love
is struggling, her thoughts
caught in a net.
Her face is full of grace,
her body evergreen,
her heart sharp
as the Canadian Shield.
I’m in Sudbury.
The pine trees looked lovely
as I drove
the treacherous roads.
for this. I sit
by a fake fireplace
that frames a true flame.
I have been crossed
by two crows today.
This tapestry depicts
the biggest bummer
of the new century.
She said you’re hurting
me. She said you’re
not a child.
For Yoko Ono
I dreamed there was a storm.
When it cleared the sky said here
is a half glass of water
to see the seasons through.
When I was a little girl Mother
said I could be anything.
I said a rabbit.
White hare running through white air.
Stand at the stove and heat milk.
Dream of white rabbits dancing
on white chairs in white snow.
Say yes to sleeping in a see-through dress.
Yes to a pair of scissors for the people
who cut holes in my clothes.
I’ll sit here and watch you do it.
I looked up at the night
and saw the moon.
I said Are you cold?
Do you need a blanket?
Oh no, she said. No, no, no.
When I woke up there was a mountain
and I was a cloud floating beside her.
How do we get back down?
Iron your mind out
like a clean white bedsheet.
Hang it on a clothesline.
Call it the sky.
Listen to Damian Rogers’ reading of “Yes, I’m A Witch” below…
Let’s pretend you are going hunting.
You pack your gear: a buck knife, a bow
and arrows cleft from the straight weeds, wild
in my front yard. You perch in a red oak, yearning
for those chilly mornings that signal harvest.
The copper of pine needles falling; whether
you catch me or not is not the point. You look first
at the wandering deer, the bigger prize,
full of meat and bone, with a skin to cure,
but you keep an eye peeled for upland birds too,
smaller, easier to mount once ensnared. You don’t need a guide
to hollow lungs of song. Yes, I said,
birds are easy to work with, their refugee bones
hollowed for flight, so small and delicate,
they may as well not be there. I have always
made myself invisible. I mean to say
I am still—the trembling breath of a comma,
the coincidental object of your want.
Listen to Rajiv Mohabir’s reading of “Preface” below…
Rajiv Mohabir, “Preface”
Owen Lewis, “Burgess Falls, TN”
Jenny Doughty, “The Printer”
Victoria Lynne McCoy, “Aubade In Pieces”
David Roderick, “Dear Suburb,”
Maria Hummel, “The Angels”
Cynthia Cruz, “Strange Gospels”
Cornelius Eady, “A Poet Forgets His Library”
C. Dale Young, “Between Men”
Rolfe Horn, “Between The Clouds, Diablo Foothills, CA 2007”
(Used With Permission)