Peter Behrman de Sinéty

Four Poems


As children along the road
their bicycle flyers tinkling spoke-song cry—

You might take an Elm
for doorway, it isn’t
nor is bend of Achilles
tendon on coasting pedal
the song of heroes
It all might slip to evening
as bowl or basin fills
with water from beneath.

Clotted ghosts of cap guns, Indians,
sulfur bring you back.
There’s a thought that rolls
In Espion’s mind if he could find
he’d stop these circles turning
ruts within his mind.
And where were his thoughts? With sparrows,
with finches twitching from porch to limb
with light that passes sieved through cedars
with every thing condensed and forming cloud
In evening. And still might rise, he thinks,
the moon.

Next hush of crowned water
night fled from itself
returns in cautious peace
as heron flies.

Otherwise the evening again
Peepers wall of hand-bell sounds
Walking as though on ice
Through grass that parts hand and hair
there with cattails, swamp lanterns,
bulrushes, malodorous muck keen for a shoe.
Where star points spread to blotted lines,
in the pond’s dark where cupped
cones of crystal let fall an echo he finds—

The odd dark of forests
not cathedrals not lamps
those lights at patterned edge
that move and flash like strobes
on water.
What’s beyond that layer never pass.
Not in this childhood.

Remember when on wheels as big as pies
you rode and thought you saw beyond
The furthest tree a figure hide. Take these roads
the ones at dark that swing the slanted
lights across your retina, leave you chill.
The shoulders fragrant now with mud
now with shale, now with leaves of birches,
how the night takes you again in cone its own,
leaves you, wheels beyond control,
is never remembered, projects you
to its furthest point inside yourself where pulses
through ears’ canals make whispered rushes
tell the story of your impending blood
how there is not long for you or her or them
all that makes a nuclear family

Still return again and walk these roads
take the branching path through skidder ruts
a balsam poplar distant spreads itself like baking cakes
like a promise of something you’ll never know,
as at noon, shadow beneath your feet,
a monarch lands on milkweed, and you remember love.

Nevertheless still try to go within that blue of sky
its vortices canceling each other its promised layer
beneath the screen where all that is and was is seen
like your own eye reflecting light, gathering dust
for another child.

And all this never could have captured nonetheless
what once we felt in narrows of our ribs.
I shook for her, she for me and wrote:
Her voice was thin and trembled once
For him. Chords ripped.

Still you’ll know the day as if there were nothing
to hide, mottled green of larches
meets cornered sky.

Friends, in mud season you cannot know
amid the gathering dark, amid your clotted shoes,
the stick you raised to others, whether in the crease
of evening as the smoke rises from chimneys and a bell
tinkles somewhere, whether it’s your mother’s voice that calls to dinner
or a pane of glass breaking high, graining itself to dusk—
Still, go home.

Another story.
We picked and clobbered him. Blood thorned knees
round the place where osier dogwoods made their crimson home.
For he’d said he had the spell that could transform beyond our cries
the day to story. And so we gathered, lashed him, sawed his bones
and left him. No one told. We're sorry.


Espion speaks deserts
chatters like choughs
hundred voices wheeled against
cloud or field. Find Espion here
chord or reticle: you can’t.


Espion sings a 100 tongues,
is each one and isn’t
can remember before the root
beneath the tongue-bud grew
smooth sleek language
as sucked milk or nipple.
That was a tongue, one of a hundred.

Also speaks underground
what knuckle bones tell him
can tell the composition of cowards
names whose severed spines
remit no story.

Espion cries love a hundred times
lies, looks out for himself
betrays once for each tongue
is betrayed the same.

Espion sings what comes
in labyrinth coils of ear
words not his or given straight
translates tongue to speech
wishes his ears were blessed
that he could understand.

Four Rounds With Espion

No gloves, no hands even
Espion fights with Henry
Scratch or gouge, handless
Henry’s face hovering there
Birdlike, child’s down
Who would hit it with such a blow
As Espion lays upon that cheek. Sees
The sweaty long-boned man, his father,
slack on ground. Get up Henry,
Espion says, get up, the chariot of Israel
and its horsemen.

Who dreams of golden scrolls
and Hebrew, holy light upon him,
Espion takes in sleep, conning
lines. In its afterglow trembling
gives razor smile across the throat.
Start again.

They told him he had to do it.
No other way, but where
To find him mysterious play-shaker
bard. No one can do that. Except maybe
Marlowe sub-contracted back from dead
with help of Philip Sydney, who together
wafted and waylaid him so, he slept
Saturnian sleep upon the Thames, and no one
even heard him drop.

O god the muses, must I, such lovely eyes,
Says Espion, slit and strangle them? who gives
him these assignments. Mutual serial
assassin trying to make a name.
The voice that comes to Espion
Isn’t here.

Espion now, ragged, historical, Chris
Marker filming his biopic for immediate
release, comes back to where it all began
What has he learned, is the world
A better place?
Child champion, big limbed, murderous
Still can’t understand why no one cheers.




White like lilies, liver
heart pierced, violate veins
Espion lies in continent.
He was, they said, the paragon
of what it is to spy.
Between his legs
through airports
he smuggled
patterns of himself
To deliver to princesses
& heads of state.
I remember him at the Palacio's
corner table holding forth his member
card saying if you don’t take it who will--
fine toothed coxcomb who could
eulogize such a fool as he.

How many ways to say farewell
to the sound of rotary fans
and bullets make noise
for Espion, final salute,
Loonies on eyes for underworld,
nationless spybard, dearly bought
freelancer. Print it:
Espion stays three days in Ibiza,
rises to rain and fog.

Gather all these bones of lust,
the little ones that mortise
artery walls. Not wishbone
break for Espion but thin as spider's feet
hear bagpipes play.

Backlit, the tackle inferno,
With this ship that is my body I go down
says Espion, true as Sherlock at Reichenbach


PETER BEHRMAN de SINÉTY grew up in Maine and teaches as lecteur d’anglais at the Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris.