Figure-skating backwards, after Jules Laforgue



If god designed an eight for me to spin,
I might allow the moon her evening colloquy
as if forgetting charlatan astronomy
to read the legend through an astral wind.

When softening a crucifix,
I round a mouth on either end
and as my mandarin sleeves beat wind,
emend an original six—

on a legendary plane, as it were, beyond.
Conical mounds of black hydrangea
moon in the shape of evergreens
through a clown's diversions in a turd-shaped pond.


"Whomever wins is going to lose,
but suicide always depends on you.
You can get it just right, but there's just one chance,"
says Miss Hart to her English class.

It is the school-day before junior prom
in Eden, New York, and a dull tom-tom
beats the arterial halls that approach the gymnasium.
I hear my flesh creak and unfold like the seats in the stadium.

You can get it just right, but you can't go home
you can only go to the junior prom
as the Cinderella-hours drop like hot stones
through a poster of Sacré Cœur.


The lies that they tell
are showing their holes
to toll
like bells
the natural shell
of history whole.

I can do no wrong,
that's all—I walk tall
the wall
is long
let that be my song,
since God's heard them all.

No doubt about it!
My time is near!
I hear
my spit
fall onto the street
as I cross to the pier

covered in strawberry Nestlé Quick.


OK, so he tortured me,
and I let him do it for a long, long time.
It was basically what we expected.

They were tiresome to me also, the baby things
hanging off of me—honeymoon-melon, diamond rings,
and the other vignettes with their weird absolute demands—

ready for the old quick purge by the rainy window. He yawned,
I flew out of his intestine. Sawdust-color dawn
was good enough to cremate the moon, nice utilitarian funeral.

Now let's have the accusations.
In pain or heat I called him traitor, wasted his time and his space and his passions,
but I needed a change. And he just went back to grazing where I found him.


"An ecclesiastic benefit without cure of souls;
An income derived from such a benefice."
Clutching the dictionary to make it piss,
the gods struggle out of it, the mouth makes holes.

Happy in the body like a cardboard moon
for the burst-heart days of the first-grade pageant
with the sad-orphan-look to make grown-ups pleasant
I'll take my dead puppet to a vacant room

far from their questions for children, their smoke
their talk about money and politics
far from the valets who take their sticks,
the silk-hat nostalgias: another book.


The car is to take or to leave.
Go fast
Go home
by grinning dash, folly of essays

glow the eyes! I would atone
for virgin ice
if it detains
the clutching woman's hands on wheels:

a moon like Paris stares and scolds
like charity
at bonne fortune
for which they come to be consoled

in antique cars like fading runes.


Blessed are the poor in spirit.
They shall deserve better things
than a perfect master
and a unified setting.

The imps at her wedding
created and dressed
for a moment's sledding
through tender bread

have still lacked principles!
because the eyes
once struck her variable
as a long goodbye.


Your debts
may lose you
in individual nests
where washerwomen lay out washed black nets:

In French
a poet
is honest as leave-taking
but I will tell you what this says:

it signifies at bottom: go, to rest
with the air of memento mori.
Veiled dancers
his jests.


I made a jolly oven
with a gas-jet for syncope
that I stuff with yew and hyssop
when I clarify my love.

A jug of broken apples
you will take with a stupid look
past a sob, past the stuffed rabbit
wounded first, tolerably cooked,

for to be reborn in autumn
is the purpose of the hour.
Through a subtle pane of boredom
to the orchards of the heart.


After her hours, the hours burned gold
as the star-shaped buttons on peignoirs.
So why the old show of conquering will?
Goodbye. What next? just the tears

to raise solitude as you would raise a screen
on pas-de-deux in silhouettes
still turning. Not to suggest
my love so white, so green, so grand

as the fly in her café au lait.
Since we deceive ourselves, raising the little finger,
she will betray herself one day
with the heart in blank profile, and her little soul stuffed.


And then see how her hands touch marbles
pointlessly as the eyes of whales.
So you would leaf through a Hindu bible
caressing the rituals as you fail

to tie a new bottle to the barge with lights
with the idea of selling it later
after a staling of the Vedic rites
in the passage of lifelike water

from end to end, by a patterned square
of singular problems like rotting corn.
The barge's bottom is gray and worn
because we loved, and didn't care.


Let it be an elevated
order of a holocaust.
My little ego's not quite lost
only kind of soiled and faded.

Take the limbs and each unscrew
from the trunk you wrapped in arms
for example! nothing warms
the masterpiece your mother grew

but charges me for works of art
as a raw material
to execute its spiritual parts
in a tedious serial.


Walk away from the limbs and parts
that you have left. He won't reclaim
the sprinkled dew of soul-in-pain
that touches carnations in the dark.

I've seen the night's three hemispheres,
Alas! and it is true the brains
are poorly-folded leaves of rain
that always dream of new affairs

with mortgage on infinity!
And now my eye does not cajole
your person into special roles
I guess I'm not so young.


The raison d'être of my sex
is to sell you back a good time
for the rib that is still and always a cross
by the infinite circumflex of song or rhyme.

Mona Lisa and Delilah
fish with Eve for troubled hearts
as my conscience sees in doubles
when I turn to you and start

to ask: is this your door?
or: did you see the white swans?
Talented nightmares make their war
without a moon, and white nights come on.


If you feel too much the impromptu kiss
of an imbecile dressed in a pose
Alas! you know that if you oppose
you will still be equally his.

So is the master's faculty
at bottom of all expertise
among the flowers of his country
ranging in fields of distress

within my lunar hearing.
As he escapes the prize
still he has fed Cydalise
for divine attachment's turning.


To finish with blue spleen for the whole sad world
and to adopt its maintenance
no longer as Mona Lisa
my dears, it was really not pleasant.

So now, as regards this brave new world
of villainies and rigors
my simple heart is water
and shortly, walking out in a lazy hour

will come a kind of moon-rise of the soul.
Will they return to me,
the old, impotent dreams?
Like mares with eyelash spangles

they were, or they could seem.


ALLISON VANOUSE is the Associate Editor of The Battersea Review. She is the editor of a critical edition of the poems of R.P. Blackmur, unpublished, and is currently working, under Christopher Ricks at the Editorial Institute, on a book about T.S. Eliot, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Wyndham Lewis, Faber and Faber, and the design, advertising, and propaganda of modernism. Her translations of poems by Apollinaire appeared in the last issue of The Battersea Review.