Poems by Jennifer Pilch

 

 

DEUS EX MACHINA /Daguerre

 

Darkness. Daguerre’s voice.

 

Before

dryades, torrents, demons, flames, gales, drapes, streetlamps,

panoramas, tresses, coves, cataracts, braids, bees, cells, pier-glass windows,

wainscots, wanderings, mirrors, barley-sheaves, silver cups, eddies, meals,

rhymes, ivy, boughs, fountains, branches, brines, harvests, sprays, bows,

amaranths, caves, acanthuses, wines, dews, curtains, greens, toils, horses,

spirits, stems, pears, wagons, grey-eyed goddesses, dials, stains, cobbles,

cornices, mornings, arcades, sages, glades, crowds, lambs, pillows,

stages, and brick-bats,

 

I marked my invention with a dagger.

 

A cursive D forms to light the darkness.

Light slowly reveals Daguerre pacing in his candlelit atelier.


Sensitive coats           sensitive coats

Think color of her hair           think oil she scents with

Cloud scythes hover on the ceiling 

Must be romantic by today’s standards  

He pauses by his laboratory table, adds oil to a vile beside a stack of metal plates.

Bring steely lavender fields, rain’s metal release

Must be dramatic by today’s standards

Adds iodine.

Bring word of mouth in perfumed irony

Must be real by today’s standards

Adds more iodine, contents swirled.

Bring fixations—the cello, the portrait, the book, the gun

Could the message, what appears, be clear?  Or cloaked? 

He eyes a sketch of a Lucanian bell crater, 390-380 BC , on which Hermes pursues a woman1

For her!  For her!  


Thunder clap.

DEUS EX MACHINA /Rachel

 

Rachel and footlights

Hair and stockings with crisscross shadows. Taffeta sounds.

My last attempt at reaching the conceived sitting
in darkness metaphorically cold
but there’s a slant light also biting so a second attempt
cantilevering in cadence beyond catkins
fingering morning but I come too early
or most likely very late.

Branches rub together.

So third fling backward
heels scratching grayness as if hatched
hot and cold fronts fishnetting and this is boundless
where one needn’t hold breath part in hope
part in desire for what binds is floating
what boosts is fleeting my finest point—no crag
no baby animals suckling woody tips.

Sound of a glass placed on a marble table.

Not supposed emptiness but ice melting
to spiracles sculpted between the carnal and the heady
a crystalline so easily toppled, cold no longer penetrates
and you’ve acclimated to peril
anything goes gutsy reward.
Divorced from my body I drag and give it up
as time for presence for prescience for luminous understanding

Wintry window.

This fetish sit in a window preen opacity.
Developed by sublimation when sky fell
as paper after sparks made rubbing rocks
before the micrograph of a snowflake
guides us back to giant stones overturned
for ancient indecency

Torn page sound.

Rachel and footlights

 

I take the ball bearings, the belts, the buckles,
the buttons, the claws, the collars, the combustion, the controllers, the cranks, the feed, the guts, the pumps, the innards, the locks, the jaws, the moving parts,
the pistons, the shafts. the skirting, the units

and

ram them in a greased chamber

DEUS EX MACHINA /Gertrude

 

Gertrude, her face taut with anguish, moves her patinated robe aside and opens her hands to speak.

 

Chorus: There was a child who died.

She is supposed to open to who is supposed to open to who is supposed to open to who is supposed to open too.

A frock soiled above the pocket, inside a pair of buttons, one seed.

How to catch the fingers drumming part boredom, part expense.

Chorus: There was a child who died.

She takes what is no longer given then takes what is no longer given then takes what is no longer given then takes what is no longer there.

How to catch the wrinkled pleats ripple above the knees.

How to retain before the vacant chest.

How light increased on strands of copper hair.

Chorus: There was a child who died.

Gertrude, her face taut with anguish, moves her patinated robe aside and opens her hands to speak.

She’s there but not in the way she was there but not in the way she was there but not in the way she was there but not in the way she was there.

How the child eyed the bird and smiled in broderie anglaise.

Gertrude opens her hands to speak.

 

In fever a shadow slides in on the wall
to dance like holmium fire
Whose walls go unnoticed

fever sets them in
a confine of blister air
a transitory lens

Chorus: There was a child who died

For days the shadow returns to its tributary
pulls away like a string
Fingering that nakedness

no toy trails its end
For days the shadow
then the curtain—cursory drawn

Chorus: There was a child who died

How the child would be
rose on cheek
would be remains

would be they prop
Before the window
before the velvet drop

1 purchased in 1839 by Department of Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Louvre


jennifer-pilch-photoJennifer Pilch has authored four chapbooks — Profil Perdu (Greying Ghost), Bulb-Setting (dancing girl), Mother Color (Konundrum Engine), and Sequoia Graffiti (forthcoming, Patasola). Her poems have appeared in such literary journals as American Letters & Commentary, Denver Quarterly, Drunken Boat, Fence, Harp & Altar, The Iowa Review, and New American Writing. She is founding editor of La Vague Journal.