Editor's note: these poems originally appeared in the old/previous Luna Luna
MAN’S WORLD: IN SIX MINUTES
The wild grass is the child wanting to climb the wall,
out of desperation, out the vague awareness of fate.
In church I close my eyes and succumb to the dark of the mind.
I think heaven is the rest of the closed eye,
the obliteration of the waking world, the absolving
of sight’s faculties. I have dreamt of my psychiatrist,
standing at the foot of the stairs. She says,
“you really don’t care, do you?”
I think she is the church.
I think I must awaken and prepare for Sunday mass
and I am late, and the sunlight through the high window
is brash and insistent. In the heavy hour prior to dusk,
my belly is overfilled, and the leaves on the trees
make scraggly shadows on the rooftops. Televisions hum
the way that adults do when a child and half-asleep.
It is far too late for negotiations with the past.
The mail truck has passed through and the food has arrived.
To be old would be a magnificent thing.
Slip me, I am woman, slip me the sun-bent cheek of youth,
and then leave me to the familiar chairs of old age.
Let me ride and ride, rainbows of the mind.
Let me gaze from windows in a stationary pose, think of fragments
that are no longer contingent. Once, a heart was a violet throb
and then it fell into mystery and print. Once, I saw a man
tempering a large dog. He fumbled, dropped the telephone
and uttered slippery words. Slip me, I am vacant,
I am an evacuated city. The sunlight on the floor is two
immaculate squares. Slip me words on blue air. Slip me
into woman not hollow and hungering. Anticipation
keeps the living as they live. When the aircraft comes to take me away,
give X my regards.
Is there enough time in the trajectory of a day? Enough, for the sun
to rise and set into its own oblivion. Thoughts meander
like road signs. Point left, point STOP, point directly
into the swamp. It is the fish of the mind, unruly and slippery,
counting its pennies on bad intentions. In the blue night,
you came raging up the stairs. A man in beard and tie, offering
all wild arms and amusements. A man flattered by the sun,
by the late falling sun, orangey against the banister. Books
retain their designations, and the rage persists.
In the middle of the night, you are dreaming Circe,
Petula Clark, frightened of corporate beasts,
a nation gone oblivious to the birds.
It’s wrong. I bash my metaphorical head in, infused with Ursula B:
the alter ego of Lawrence. She tightens her money purse
and goes out searching. Her mother, burdened with children
does not complain, remains flaxen-haired and dutiful.
She is going to the post office like a ghost.
She is feathering her life for the better. The man she loved
is a dead stone. In her heart is partly a dead stone.
She goes on, as must proceeds as must.
In theory the self is a waif, a sinking, slippery thing.
It leans against barstools like a representation. Grid and semiotic.
She wants to be old in an old familiar chair. God
like an inaccessible and distanced hush. She foresees this,
sees the wandering to and from rooms, a waif, an answerer
of doors and words.
The sunlight mitigates the dim numbering of the mind.
My daughter says, “two” and pointedly touches her toe,
the city grinds amid an infinite silence. If God is nigh,
he observes and orchestrates what he observes:
death, joy, the crude and unruly thoughts of humans,
the hollow distances of traffic, need and needlessness,
the unintentional music of the world’s momentum.
My daughter says “one,” and pointedly touches her toe.
In six minutes, I will begin to anticipate. A heedless
poetic phrase, the long dead lover, his papers curling before him.
The telescoped vision of domed light by an evening window:
he’s sipping his whiskey and distorting his face.
His heart has gone from a violet throb to a dim gold
and he is the street I no longer remember,
its storefronts shifting, its passerby infrequent
as an hour. Ursula B. hides her papers away
and kills her once longing heart with fifty pounds a year
and a good horse.
Gibbous moon on the verge of—
implode or explode like a woman on the verge of
estranged from each origin like a figuration of the immediate world.
Estrangement is very trendy, from the self, from procreation,
from the drudgery of horses and the elegance of conversation.
Each origin a dead hole. Each origin a dark transfer from infancy
into the confusion of consciousness.
Each day the sea succumbs to itself, eventually swallows
the place where you were walking.
Each day you say “there must be more.”
More to chew on or spit
like your best attempts upon the shore.
Your soul swarming
beneath the deafening sound of your own voice.
Maybe you are vacuuming the living room
or speaking to someone who is sitting on the sofa.
Someone declines the wine you offer, and she becomes
a body or a tree.
She is smiling very politely
and her thoughts are loud like a stenographer.
Gibbous moon on the verge of—
words that you nail to the wall, burn to your skin,
commit to your disorganized brain, words which
bury themselves while you sleep.
You cannot dig them up. A door slams
and you are alone with the inward wail of yourself.
It is morning and the moon is verging its own verge.
The sunlight is clean and the streets look safe and deserted.
Desertion is safe insofar as its intrinsic disappearances.
If you are deserted and estranged you are safe
inside your own disappearance.
And there is a wild desertion of presence here,
an empty mailbox, an estrangement of sound.
The day begins.
The children are already transitioning away
from their own origins, like the shape-shifting moon.
And they fill the emerging day like spring.
TO MISREMEMBER, AGAIN
“For beauty is nothing but the beginning of terror…”
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Flight is the acute terror of sinking
and sinking is the desperate terror of flight. Tonight,
let me rouse you from your green aura of sleep
and delight you with visions
of the calligraphic and starved trees of February,
deft and suspended in the gray wash of air
when the heart buries itself in its own
When the innards of the soul are rising glad
with metaphoric birds, will you be afraid?
Will you rail like Rilke
toward all things beautiful and terrible?
I fruited fat with your children
and woke to find the silvered light
against the window.
You existed like winter in the bed, woke
from troubled dreams like a train.
I wanted to remain
deft and suspended,
to be full of flight and terrified, to sink
and not to sink while sinking.
The trouble of darkness
is the deaf hum of invisibility.
You are not there, and yet you feel
your corporeal self
laboring from room to room.
Your mind bleeds into the dark
and you cannot remember,
and you cannot forget. You are funneling
into sleep, and you want a blanking of day
before once again funneling into sleep.
You wake and brew the coffee
and you are one with the strange nothing of God.
You proceed and proceed
and time holds you captive
in its blasphemous sinking ship, rocking and rocking
unto death, unto flight, unto a late
and emancipated absurdity.
It is late, and the children are weary.
You put them to bed, prepare again
for further preparation. You are here
and you are already a forthcoming obliteration.
In the morning, you watch a disruption of birds
moving like small carnivals
through the trees.
Emily Vogel’s poetry has been published in numerous journals. She has published five chapbooks: most recently Digressions on God (Main Street Rag, author’s choice series) and The Philosopher’s Wife (Chester River Press). Recently, she collaborated with her husband, Joe Weil, on a book of poetry, West of Home (Blast Press). She is the poetry editor of the online journal Ragazine, and teaches writing at SUNY Oneonta and Hartwick College.