Allison Vanouse

Three Poems

The Nile

The Nile flows West between Chicago and Arcadia
clasping suddenness to the wounded barge
orchids play on the moonlit tabletop
how summer weeps in an easychair
corpses bending to picnic water
to soothe intimations of weekly crime
at the Bal d’Héra tumbles of perfect fat
butter the bacon of humankind
desert has shuffled onto vacant tables
there is no paroxysm of our greed
but ages make the perfume into forment
Clothilde tasting warm uranium speed
is not more gruesome than the sigh of Thebes
replacing its agent with a show of national pride.
We must continue, any surface takes
at the stinging point of its center
the surest maze of geology
has recovered these ivory splinters
in the minted way. Henceforth the tune
will be carried like a burning scepter
a course the length of a turning stone
the endlessness is not untried
but lacking turmoil, and severe
like a charlotte wasted by an anorexic bride.
Yes, there are booths for the fortune tellers
at the faire by the deserted planetarium
and many others as I understand
the class is not well-cared-for but survives
in that trim ancestral modesty, decline.
Call it what you will but note the pressure
of this termite-colored agency of mind.
They say each ruined banner has its color.

*  *  *

The stars conduct each passion, neatly sung
into archaic reveries of love
that trip the present chaoses with tongues
like gilded lilies stroking private suns
while ghosts that out of old desires swell
the tuneful rank forgetfulness of hell
who can recall, who walks these snowy streets
the immemorial song each love repeats
to be discarded in abyssmal fields
where my sweet shade clasps your arm still, and feels
the endless waste that life grinds out of us
cruel dignity that beggars faded lust
we glimpse a whole infinity, not ours
then trash each other, turning with the stars.

*  *  *

What is the wordless integer
that charges each unusual sight
with apprehension, cooling war
in the verdant night like a crystal cup,
to honor variance, each bit to each one,
never on the brink more than it was,
infirm as passion to suggest one stay
in the grim excitement of the original pause?

Watching from windows on the turbine streets
each set of eyes alone supports the world,
though firm with an evening's conversation
we know as elastic as a belly's curl
some other body, casting into space
what furtive mutant alloy it can love
that extends from the seed of the human race
to an empty place you will call above.


ALLISON VANOUSE is the author of The Logic of the Air, and Associate Editor of The Battersea Review.