Still Life and Ink
Let the outside shake you
with its squalid sidewalks,
brazen sinkholes. Let concrete diamonds
blink at you from snowbound streams.
Close your hands over your cup,
squint through the plume of steam
into the sky’s vermilion cloak.
Let the wind burn your face and stir
a tiny teacup storm. Don’t close the window.
Let the porcelain chip and sliver.
Let rivulets of tea lacquer the table.
Leave the stove on. Let
the bloated kettle groan. It will
punish you: you will wake
in the dark, douse the flame,
scorch your eyes. Leave the window
down as the smoke draws
shadow pictures in its wake.
Words have flailed you, wet and sharp
as a bulrush. Your legs,
two reeds, shake their fury
when touched, as books
neglected overlong on shelves shake
their dandelion clouds, plant dust weeds
in unscrubbed corners. In the basin
of pent-up words you’re forearm-deep.
You collage a handmade paper pulp of leaves
and choke, cough on the fibers
of words while grains of ink
dance on their fringes.
Each corrugated fold swallows
the last. White spaces gape, vaselike.
Seeds of print pullulate in the whir
and cut of the ceiling fan. Panic will erase
everything you are about to do: a trail
of erasures, the tracing paper torn through.
LIZA KATZ is a poet, critic, and ESL teacher. Her poems and criticism have appeared in Poet Lore, Omniverse, Clarion, The Critical Flame, Quarterly Conversation, and Open Letters Monthly.