Jan/Feb 2010 Poetry

Two Poems

by Kristin Roedell

Inside the Portrait

This is a word painting
of the wooden gate I open each morning,
beyond which drifts of yellow leaves
lie in tall soft shapes
like a woman's handwriting;
it touches the autumn lake in silver and black,
with its thousand fingertips
that fold into the
hands of the rain.

This is a mirror
of the hammock dripping water
like dew from a spider web,
and the boat dock
spattered with white droppings
by a late flock of geese.
It reflects a bicycle planter
with October pansies
falling over wire wheels
like vivid kites trailing leaves as tails.

That should be all,
but somehow the sharp smell of
the neighbor burning sticks in a rusted barrel,
and the feel of wet grass on my heels
when I walk to the mailbox,
have hung themselves inside
the portrait.
This is not a word painting, then.
These things can't be held
in a frame.


Cave Paintings

This house that you are building
has prospered;
it rises in an autumn sun.
You've followed every pattern,
but a miter saw has no conscience.
Like some ancient Aztec god,
it takes what it can;
it believes that a foundation
must be bloodstained.

Perhaps you raised yourself up
your ladder until, like the Tower of Babel,
you came too close to the sky,
but it is useless to ask why;
the early gods can no longer be understood.

They communicate in pigments made in caves
from blood and fat and clay,
teach hunters to dip hands
to press against the stone.
Their strange thoughts are like our dreams:
written in symbols.
I think the palms that made those prints
reached out to claim a debt.
It was your severed hand you were asked for,
but would not freely give—

a row of dark, uneven stitches
spoke for you in any language:
"this is my own."
Still, I saw the hospital use a basin
to gather what you spilled.
The practice yet remains.

I am harboring this hope,
that whatever visited you
will be bound by the blood
you spattered on this house—
and must now pass over.


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