–For Elizabeth Bishop
When you read poems, who could resist
all the cleverly split ends you went
to and oh! through such means: chains
of silver spectacles; a sprig of lilacs
at your throat, as effective as garlic
for putting off the strangers of Chicago;
a long arm of wit that might launch ships
or fleets of floating words, phantom
holographs, keeper at home of the oddest
small things come to roost. What dreams
are you guide to that drive me farther
from heaven, hell, and everything between?
Far off details stall or circle like magic
lantern scenes: ground fog shimmers
like a scrim. Like a figure in a shroud,
a hooded, grey sweatshirted farmer
farms his tract, his tractor burning,
his brand upon the gate. The sun,
a hot pink fire balloon, flares out,
bursting gold seams in the satin clouds.
This last is alchemy, but I see now where
it’s going–not this simple machinery,
not this journey, not this masque,
not the point of this or any metaphor
but the way itself, a vanishing point
opposite yours, like that half twist
in a Möbius strip where all at once
pencil line is drawn into infinity.
How’s that work? Magic words? Something
up your sleeve, silky-smooth as a scarf,
nothing shown, nothing given away, just
your touch. Anyone can pluck a white hare
out of a hat. Now, how can I change scars
into stars, make spring eternal paradise
again, love life, bait a better snaketrap,
save my own skin this fall? Look at these
stars! Constellations of migrating geese
rise out of the north and off you fly, back
down to the land of crocodiles, dolphins,
crabs, armadillos, puffins, cocks, and awks.
I keep dogs in my yard. Nerval had a lobster
on a leash. It knew the secrets of the sea
and didn’t bark. Now, there’s something
to be said for the art of surprise.
Just how many miracles will I need?
I see you twist the tail on every (p)ink pig
in a pen, smoke out ears from my fields
like an inflammable ghost, parting the gold
stalks, row and row, the halves sliding
almost together behind on the blacktop,
so hot all I see’s a mirage. The red-
winged blackbird on his fencepost turns
to land in that lake, crying and crying
after us, invaders in his territory.
In your wake, I take trips, wear hats,
watch as frogs and farmers disappear.
— Pamela Yenser
Pamela Yenser grew up in Wichita. She holds a BA in English (WSU), MA (PSU), and MFA (UI). Yenser was student editor of Mikrokosmos and The Midwest Quarterly Review. Nominated for AWP and Pushcart Prizes, and recipient of an American Academy of Poets Award, she teaches college writing in Albuquerque.