I wonder if the trees mind being
Forced to wear these tortured forms,
A box, a sphere, a corkscrew,
Along a perfect path of white gravel.
Do they dream of rogue branches
Poking out between trim tailored ones,
Grabbing the butts of tourists
Who stroll by with Pepsi cans?
Do they dream of woods swallowing
The castle, the kiosk, the refreshment stand,
Of a healed earth, all its conflicts gone,
Its nasty fiefdoms, under a green blanket?
Masked, smiles do not register, or
Grimaces. Or teeth, or lack of them.
New styles develop on these false
Protective fronts. A jewelled rose,
A sneer, a snake. Here are two cats
Sitting together. I sit in the corner
In my folded nursey mask, as usual
Part of the wallpaper. The music
Though dim is a bit edgy, even
Lurid. Maybe soon we will all
Jump up and dance, the cats,
The jewels, the American flag,
Even the old nurse. We’ll be
Bobbing around six feet apart,
Nobody touching anyone.
For no one is dying here today;
That Gremlin with blood running
Down his arm was only grazed,
And he’s quickly taken away.
Is my heart's altar empty?
I can see it up close
like the priest's hands in the online Mass
the white cloth spread and the Chalice shining
and the blunt chubby fingers with the close clipped nails.
but is there any other presence in my room
or is my heart's altar empty
Has age stilled the breath, the wind
that came in from outside?
Have the symbols split from their meanings
flying off in different directions,
the cross becoming merely
the place of the accident where someone died?
Is my heart's altar empty? Are these only the shadows of clouds?
Is there nowhere my tired flint can start a fire, and if I call, will anything respond?
Is my heart's altar empty
or is it that with my dull vision can I dimly
still see the presence and the light?
HALFWAY BETWEEN MIDNIGHT AND DAWN
3 a.m., wakened to diffuse sadness
After a rocky dream of childhood.
I prefer stories with happy endings,
They must pretend to reality though
And then there’s, hey, what’s happy?
Cinderella learning princesshood?
Or maybe the old lady with cats
Who converses with them, but she has
No story, only bits of others’ stories,
Like the blankets she knits
From leftover ends of yarn, angora,
Nylon, cotton, blue, purple, green.
Still, it’s a blanket, and the cats
Sprawl at her feet, and it is not 3 a.m.
The art is whatever you frame, the world
Is what remains outside. And if you cut
A corner off the frame? And if the art
Drifts out of the frame across the wall?
Frame for me a few moments of light,
But true the frame and make sure the glue holds.
A flash and the tube light darkens.
I sit at the table, perplexed.
Is it the tube itself, or perhaps
The current up there. The fan
Does not work either. I sigh,
Find two lamps in the dusty garage,
Brush off spiderwebs and bugs.
The old bulbs glow when I plug in
The cords, and two golden circles
Intersect on my desk. I like this light.
It is mandorla, the eye of the soul,.
Mandorla, almond, the shape of the
Shared space. Or is it Vesica Piscis,
The fish in the overlap, from Euclid,
Sacred geometry taken by Christians,
Or two young lovers walking in the rain,
Side by side, under their umbrellas?
Or maybe just part of a Venn diagram,
Waiting for the third circle,
The one which will clarify everything.
Journals publishing Janet McCann’s work include KANSAS QUARTERLY, PARNASSUS, NIMROD, SOU'WESTER, AMERICA, CHRISTIAN CENTURY, CHRISTIANITY AND LITERATURE, NEW YORK QUARTERLY, TENDRIL, and others. A 1989 NEA Creative Writing Fellowship winner, she taught at Texas A & M University from 1969-2016, is now Professor Emerita. Most recent poetry collection: THE CRONE AT THE CASINO (Lamar University Press, 2014).
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