Fluidity (or, the lack thereof)
"We have lived too shallowly in too many places."
– Wallace Stegner ('Angle of Repose')
I was born – a breath –
At the end of a speech.
She was begging him to put down
The poker chips and come home,
Please, love, come home
And he told her
That she could have all the good silver
And the chipped and unchipped china
If only she allowed him
To sit at a three-legged table
For the better part of two – no, four –
Ahh, perhaps eight –
Her voice did not hoarse
And she did not put down her hair
And the sun should not have set
And the bar should not have opened
Her voice hoarsed. Her hair hung to her collarbone, stuck to it, and she could not loosen it. The sun set. The bar opened. And he took his moolah and crossed the street. The man looked down at his feet, at the ashes from the fireplace that had accumulated there, and tried to scuff them off, to little avail.
hit and miss
cliff swallows sweep deftly
through the night –
a trembling rain putters down
on the sidewalk as her eyes gleam
through the veneer
of the black-swathed tulip
she clasps close to her face.
"i will die in paris…
on a day i already remember…"*
cliff swallows swoop
too close to shore.
cliff swallows plummet
and fall to sea.
you, too, have spoken of its taste:
like the pale ochre of maple saplings.
a long, seeping sip of cloth obscures my mouth,
dims the din of saws.
they cut long and close and
hard, fell a thousand
forests. watch us.
we will not be forgotten,
says the oak. i clap politely,
fail to see the forest
for the trees.
note left on an adjacent hospital bed (A Cento*)
I'm the interminable fields you can't see
(I love you more than all the windows in New York City),
Folds of all the gullied green:
I'm inside that brilliant gravity.
How can I sing of this?
one bright line
and a long coastline—
over flower beds
and our deep cool verandah,
in the small lifting of our cups and our cakes to our lips.
How terrific it is to stand on the roof,
Watching the swallows…
It's a matter of perspective: yours is to love me
when the light strikes at odd angles
like a sea-bird.
It's not paradise I'm looking for,
but look, I must tell you:
You are my bread,
a wooden boat between
the threshold of eternity
and the rush and roar of life.
Forgive my unwritten poems;
Drink from me and you shall live forever.
*Each line taken from a different poem in the following order: Franz Wright, "To Myself"; Jessica Greenbaum, "I Love You More than All the Windows in New York City"; Gary Snyder, "Kyoto: March"; Greg Glazner, "Sick to death of the hardpan shoulder"; Dilruba Ahmed, "Petition"; Darcie Dennigan, "High and Bright and Fine and Ice"; Marina Tsvetaeva, "An Attempt at Jealousy". Translators, Ilya Kaminsky and Jean Valentine; Lisel Mueller, "Beginning with 1914"; Joanne Burns, "reading"; Joanne Burns, "kept busy"; Alberto Rios, "Coffee in the Afternoon"'; Lisa Jarnot, "Poem Beginning with a Line by Frank Lima"; Gottfried Benn, "Asters". Translator, Michael Hofmann; Alice Fulton, "Yours and Mine"; Lisel Mueller, "Sometimes, When the Light"; Fay Zwicky, "Letting Go"; Chard Deniord, "This Ecstasy"; Judith Beveridge, "How to Love Bats"; Diane Di Prima, "The Window"; Carl Philips, "The Truth"; Charlotte Mew, "Not for That City"; Rabindranath Tagore, "Amidst the Rush and Roar of Life"; Fay Zwicky, "The Poet Begs Forgiveness"; Ciaran Carson, "Labuntur et Imputantur"
Stephanie Guo lives in Southern California, and has been published in Front Porch Review, Hanging Loose, and Eunoia Review, among other journals. She is the recipient of the 2012 Adroit Prize in Verse and an Honorable Mention in the 2012 Nancy Thorpe Contest. Recently, Stephanie was named a Commended Foyle Young Poet of the Year.