Boyer Rickel

March 28, 2009

from reliquary

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.

rickel-2cullyBoyer 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.

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