The seaweed salad beside an ice cream float.
A flop-eared goat on the doghouse roof.
An elbow peers out of a torn sleeve
among the poolside breasts, partially eclipsed.
“Strange neighbors,” came from the neighbors.
Favorite sweater aboard the emptied bus.
A spoon between axes. An ax beneath the truck.
Outside the circus a planet inside a puddle
shivers like a horse near an orchard.
Next to me and wide of you. Trickling light
down my back, just when I’m settled into
an orbit far from the sun with its noisy huddle,
I’m nabbed by a grammar that unmatters me.
To an Oak
A chatter of acorns, a cloud of wigglers—
in a flood of excess we started out,
worked our way into a squishy place
and gathered strength for the big push.
The ponds emptied their faces to the sky.
You kicked out the floor of the seedcase
and sprouted hairs to drink with. I was cut loose
and hurried down the hallway by a nun.
For a time we could stand head to head.
You laid down tracks of time, a blink
of green each spring laddered into reach,
every leaf celebrating the feast of light.
Greedy for the hurry and soon enough
I was grown and sloughing seeds.
Your bark furrows, your shadow breaks,
clearly you weather your share of sorrows.
But I don’t think you get lost wondering
what it’s worth. Now fifty, sixty years go past
and you’re just setting to work. Your first
crop of acorns meteors the garden
and I am what nested for a while.
I Ain’t Studying No War
Like the picky monarch in the milkweed
forever can thrive only on the maths
of theory which is also the habitat
gods, exaggeration, and the grasping need
and the flipside, never, never, never.
Mother, brother, brother, younger sister
and now–coronas break up like whispers.
We could use Lear’s dexterous fool to turn
inside out the rule of these war metaphors,
to pluck apart this laughable lingo,
so we could cradle the goose-fleshed thing
and tender in our hands the thrashing heart
of beauty which can grow only because it starts
and therefore must dwindle and die
like every bird and every star.
Oh, reason not the need.
And don’t ask why.
Sooner or later we all lose at war.
Mother, brother, brother, sister and now
the claws snap fast inside me as well.
I won’t strap up and flail against the swell.
The wind and the rain grumble from the west.
I want to be stroked apart like a flower.
Your final date comes to even numbers:
geometry writes the line as 2—
it means length without width. At 12:44 a.m.
you started riding the incalculable
line narrower than the dragline a spider
throws out, tinier than the silk’s proteins
tied head to head (& absolutely straight),
smaller than quarks inside lightweight
hydrogen: for even a quark isn’t only math.
Now you live in pure theory. The point
on the calendar has only position.
Nothing is less. “2,” legless swan,
the number that separates. The line,
the border you crossed wasn’t chalked,
but I see it and toss a stone before me
and hop toward where it doesn’t land.
Four tangerines on the table,
one rolled behind the salt
as if to simper all alone.
Well, it’s no one’s fault.
The snow is coming down
welcome for once, a comic cloud
in all its riot gear. Things go.
What happens to me now
and next won’t be about
loneliness. Ahead, a drop off.
And the clock that says an hour’s coming
you cannot start or stop.
Michelle Boisseau won the Tampa Review Prize for her fifth book of poems, Among the Gorgons, published by University of Tampa Press in 2016. Her A Sunday in God-Years, Arkansas 2009, in part examines the slave-holding past of her paternal ancestors in Virginia, into the 17th century. Trembling Air was a PEN USA finalist, University of Arkansas Press, 2003; she’s also published Understory, the Morse Prize, Northeastern University Press, 1996, and No Private Life, Vanderbilt, 1990. She has been publishing her poems in prominent literary journals since 1980, and her work has appeared in many anthologies, websites, and textbooks. Recent poems are appearing in Best American Poetry 2016, Poetry Daily, Poetry, Gettysburg Review, Yale Review, Southwest Review, and Shenandoah. Her textbook, Writing Poems (Longman), is now in its 8th edition. Boisseau has twice been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches in the MFA program at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she is Senior Editor of BkMk Press and Contributing Editor of New Letters.