Friday 31 May 2024

Four Poems by Patricia Nelson

A Harpy Warns the Heedless Celebrants

I flap down at the gods' behest
to eye your dance. Raveling beasts
who wheel into visibility
like wet leaves in a gale.

You stomp and feast and sing!
With the wind in your thin and
broken clothes, you tip and bell.
How much you want! And want!

You tug at everything and
ape the revels of the gods.
You’re moths about to blacken
on a hot, white lamp!

Oh, the joy that little creatures take
in longings larger than themselves!

With New Knowledge, Hamlet Sees his Mother

I walk slowly in this enigmatic season
where the cold expands and light is halved.
This horizon holding both belief and disbelief.

I now see monsters with a nearer eye.
The mother that I loved begins to speak
and doubt divides me like a shadow.

There is an airless well in me,
in which she falls and falls
and goes out like a star.

I see a barnyard world, filled with
silly creatures moved to murder
by a heat both wild and sincere.

A space where any fool can whirl and cackle.
Where chickens the colour of devils run
and some with soft and livid feathers.

A Seer Describes the Gods’ Speech

There are gods who shriek
and eddy when they think.

Who spit the truth as mist
from hot and hissing rock.

Stones hold the heaviness
of truth, the noise.

The wish within it floats, as though
to know the worst were light.

A Seer Asks Who Owns the Vision

The image is always the same:

a deep slot for the dead
cascading shapes and noise.
It whirls like water and is gone.

Once I thought the visions meant
to drag me to some consequential act.
That a better outcome lay within me.

But warnings graze us vaguely,
brighten and then dissipate:
an inkling only, like a breath on skin.

Perhaps the visions are a garment,
a white gleam full of dark. And my pleas
leave lovely shadows on a listener.

Or perhaps a vision whispers to
the future—to those who know
they cannot change it

and are far enough away
to find it beautiful.

Patricia Nelson lives in the San Francisco Bay Area, where she works with the "Activist" group of poets. Her newest book, Monster Monologues, is due out from Fernwood Press in December 2024.

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