March 28, 2009
The beaked and opalescent bloodied
stump my dog nudges—a chunk
of pigeon in shadow. Things known
are not our own. Faced with an image,
we dream a story, words penciled
into the balloon of a cartoon panel.
Bird head torn from bird trunk
framed by curb and sidewalk
in the dirt of an easement. Above us
towers a cathedral. Language listens,
an essay argues, so we must nudge it
from indifference. I place birdhead
on the page: artifact, fragment, one
among the collection. So that
when said, it acquires a body.
The day had come, the fur on bone
rising in barely visible puffs, her feline
open-eyed stare affixed to nothing. A blue plate
cracked and fell from my hands,
four unequal quarters clattering
on porcelain. The silence after
filling with expectation. As when
on a deserted neighborhood street at dawn
the dog and I stopped short: ping
of a bell of unknown origin.
Over time, so many tiny unanswerable
spaces accrue, like the drops of water
that carve a grotto. A vacancy
shaped. A room life builds
for the imagination. The day after
broke fresh as a stripe of wet
paint on pavement. Off the porch overnight
four trumpet-shaped feather-tongued
cereus blossoms had opened, extravagant
as cancan skirts belying the genus’s
homophone. Belaying me up the rock face
of the morning’s absence.
Pleasure, know your place, I thought at first,
resisting what seemed a cheap nudge
off the trail from corpse to consequence:
matter—once held, breathless,
wrapped in a towel—as always,
proved unintelligible. Then gave in,
as one in love, grateful
for this approach of the visible.
Boyer Rickel is the author of remanence (Parlor Press, 2008), Taboo, essays (Wisconsin, 1999), and arreboles (Wesleyan, 1991). The untitled poems here are from a chapbook sequence, reliquary, to be published in November 2009 by Seven Kitchens Press. Recipient of poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Arizona Commission on the Arts, he has taught in the U. of Arizona Creative Writing Program since 1991.