Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Untitled in Four Parts

Academic journal article The Virginia Quarterly Review

Untitled in Four Parts

Article excerpt


Dawn boils up like milk, cloudy with disrespect.

Like Tin Pan Alley hacks, paid for each line,

neighborhood wrens bang out their high-pitched notes.

The narrow windows offer nothing, the glass

brushed with dark leaf-shapes, like a Japanese scroll.

A smudge of nimbus glows. The gray burns to blue.

Love is now overrated, out of date-

when I first glimpsed you in those green-leaf days,

my heart consoled itself in heats of longing.

Your creamy flesh has chipped away like marble,

your ink-black hair filling with silver vein.

Time's furnaces are banked, the wood lots gone.

Downriver something steams, two plumes of smoke,

with fire belching from its barren stacks.


Adam in his frame, Eve at last in hers.

Having no words, they must make empty signs.

How do we know, how do we know the sign?

The girl in the pale albumen photograph

takes off her dress, and stares back. There it is,

the magpie poignance of the stolen life.

Upstairs a something stirs within the womb,

and downstairs griping mourners grip the corpse,

bearing the ruined heaven in its weight.

The vision in the photograph says nothing,

only the there that needed to be said.

In Cranach's diptych, the couple hesitates-

drawing the thorny leaves across their skin,

divided from each other by their shame. …

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