Sigh Like Twig the Wonder Kid
A party tonight with real boys—who needs trouble?
Better the problems of representing shadow.
Snap of static when fingers meet vinyl, then
the amplified hush as needle meets its groove.
Better to ponder freakishness, whether
the green eye wants what the brown foresees. His tenor
founders on the bridge and she can’t breathe,
as if she’s in love, or gazing in the mirror.
Meanwhile she fixes Bowie’s sheen in oils,
learning his rouged mouth’s quirks. Not the glam
rock waif who streaked a lightning bolt across
his face, not the corn-pale padded suit of cynical
1983, but Changes Two,
the wet look. Nothing set. Nothing dry.
Ruffled bedspread; sting of turpentine.
Plaid uniform skirt; her paint-swirled smock.
She mixes a bruised hue to smudge around
his eye as cadmium washes from the sky.
She applies so little pigment the fibers
of the canvas show. A famished child,
a reckless thing, she knows how costumes sink
into the skin. That voice is forever. Yet she claws
up fishnets, finds her cobalt ankle-boots.
An ink-and-mustard mini, some Dippity-Doo.
Ground Control could learn a thing or two.
The End of Talk
Drinking tempranillo at her laptop, a woman pretends to talk
by jabbing keys. The wind does nothing but talk
at branches or rippling metal roof, whose backtalk
is not like the shrug of a teenager who refuses to talk
about whatever texted squabble chilled her to the root. Tock
of starlings in the aural foreground, bark
of a neighbor’s frantic lab for a bass line, all talk
no bite upon the dental consonant beginning “talk,”
that’s amateur linguistics talk
for the tongue’s assault to the rear of the teeth. The maple talks
with restless green hands. The woman thinks she should have used “green”
instead of “talk”
for the ringing bell of this epistrophe, calling her to a temple where only an
unaffiliated priest strolling by will talk
about endings. She’s here to avoid a conversation
with a certain widow who has decided not to grieve until caught up with the
ironing. Some women choose smalltalk
or diaries, blogging, Facebook chat
instead of thinking about the dead. This woman in particular, talk
about repression—if she really wanted to talk
she could at least use the first person. Instead there’s no one. Just pines in
the temple garden, laughing privately, talking
with their backs to her, resinous needles muffling the ground, which longs for
though its mouth is choked with decay.
Although the borderland is stony
and slicked by vivid seaweed,
the old man walks again without a cane—
his silhouette disrupts the glare.
No use shouting. Parents and children
never hear each other. Or
they pick up the faintest
impatient huff. Blackout
yields to voice as randomly
as suns broadcast their flares.
This terrain’s all surf and precipice.
Mirror pools bristle with mussels.
Generations break into foam around
boulders. Ahead, an absolute Atlantic.
But a limestone cliff at our backs
reflects the roar, as if we stand
within a shell whose whorls affirm
each listener’s inner ocean. Touch
the wall and feel a bass-line throb.
And there’s my son, leaning into
this green noise. Locked mollusk.
My daughter’s magnetic waves assail me.
Gods and fathers rarely signal,
but rock vibrates
sympathetically. What else
could it say? Echo
a kind of love, of
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lesley Wheeler’s poetry collections are The Receptionist and Other Tales, Heterotopia, and Heathen. These poems will appear in her forthcoming book, Radioland, which draws partly on her experience as a Fulbright scholar at Victoria University in 2011. She has a sonnet sequence about that year in Valparaiso Poetry Review and a poem in Unsplendid about first hearing Bill Manhire read (although she owes that poem’s tuatara quote to Harry Ricketts). Lesley teaches at Washington and Lee University in Virginia, in the U.S., and lives virtually at lesleywheeler.org.
Lesley says, “Autumn is blowing in hard this afternoon in Lexington, and the maples are turning red.”