Apr/May 2016 Poetry Special Feature

Two Word Poems

by Ray Templeton

Image courtesy of the British Library Photostream

Beginning to End

On the first day, full of ideas,
he created night,
so lovers couldn't sleep.

We sat clenched
under the skeleton light
of a possessive moon.

On the second, he created water,
so rain would drip perpetually
from the roofs of deserted markets.

Watching defies logic,
waiting has its moments, but mostly
the time seems diffuse, like ash in the air.

On the third day, he made the fish—
not for the sea, but so that
they could be unloaded before dawn

by men with faces
old before their time—
a different kind of blindness.

On the fourth, imagination undimmed,
he created flowers—saw them cut
and scattered under windows:

foxgloves, digitalis purpurea
"They're good for something,"
you told me, "if only we could find it."

On the fifth, still keen, he made dogs,
so there would be another beast whose dreams
are filled with recollections of the wild.

Is that where it came from,
that empty landscape,
the grey skies, the need for shelter and fire?

On the sixth day, sick and tired, he created
broken windows, doors hanging on their hinges,
steps that led to nowhere.

And I remember now, how once
you'd said that nowhere was exactly
where you wanted to go.


The Trick

The planning's crucial—
new paint on the backdrop,
oil on the trapdoor hinges,
footlights checked for fade and flicker;

tailcoat cleaned and pressed,
shoes like mirrors,
top hat, cane and gloves,
and me? Word-perfect.

Now the magic—
wave the wand and make
the evil disappear,
make the horror stop.

Tap the hat, intone
the arcane incantation,
and pull it out—perpetual
peace, an end to it all.

Another wave, and homes
are homes, water's water, food
is food, a friend's a friend.
So easy, just like

that. Every legend
consummated, every wish
fulfilled, and now
I stand to the applause—

the cheers, the shouts for more,
the curtain call, the flowers,
the promise to return. So glad
I remembered the bulletproof vest.


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