BOOK OF HOURS

A jostle of stars at the edge of the Crab Nebula pinpoints the heart of Taurus. Under the right conditions, with a steady hand, you can see it with binoculars. As with most things, the conditions are rarely right, the hand never steady enough.

 

: :

 

Snow arrives on the hackles of wolves, but from where? As before the snow, one must see an image for what it is: fugitive, belated. Mute like a river. Like the stupor of smoke when a bell jar is placed over a lit candle. Like a snowflake caught on a sniper’s eyelash as he aims.

 

: :

 

No homespun melancholy, no traveler’s nostalgia, this ennui works its way into the marrow, lodges there, and enters the blood. Thus infected, it is best not to descend to the underworld, attempt to lure a shade out of a realm of shades.

 

: :

 

My brother strikes the door slammed on him. To enhance this charm of anger, my brother strikes again the door slammed on him. Not to knock, but to knock it down, break and enter. All he finds inside are swept floors, open cabinets, and empty drawers.

 

: :

 

There’s no refusing the refuse, the detritus, the accumulations, the scrape of scrap crushed, trashed, deemed useless at last. Of all the subsets of the set of the whole, which is represented by the intersection labeled a? Vestiges corrode, cede to rust.

 

: :

 

All stories begin in the forest and only latter do we move out of its dark to follow the herds, to build with mud and straw. A shimmer of stream through the woods is not enough to lure us back. We were happy: everything still to be done.

 

: :

 

A snare of horsehair. Cinders on her cuffs. Blocked access to an exit. Da Vinci’s chapter called How to Make an Imaginary Animal Look Natural. Bronze boats afloat on a sea of rice.  Spiral galaxy. The palpable pull of gravity. Borrowed time.

 

: :

 

A day moon, silver damascened with iron, shimmers a little. The fields look like fields in a Book of Hours where magpies follow a sower. What he casts down the birds take up. He does not look back. He looks ahead. He is the sower.

 

: :

 

Virgas above a landscape makes distance tactile. She spoke the truth. He wanted an explanation. She explained that there is no objectivity—how can one see without the interference of interpretation? He recalled her hesitations, not the words she uttered.

 

: :

 

Odysseus narrates three tales of forgetfulness. As he speaks, he tastes the lotus honey on his tongue, feels the burn of salt in his throat. He has no memory of the past, only memories of the stories he tells, memories of telling the stories.

 

: :

 

A fogged-over pond floats above the thawed ground like a monocle.   Heather and other ruderals take hold in burnt-out places. The viewer, absorbed in viewing, takes note of distortion at the periphery, how there straight lines ache toward curves.

 

: :

 

A non-native invasive is introduced, or a horse is ridden into a funeral pyre, or you imagine a quantity where counting no longer makes sense, or Jesus, distracted, a little annoyed by their ploy, wastes their time, scrawls something in the dust.

 

: :

 

What is Italian for its paltry semblance, for the birth of specters and phantoms? The bird, and not the birdcall, is hidden. While you decide on your order, the waiter caresses the rumpled tablecloth smooth. Each item on the menu has a red line drawn through it.

 

: :

 

How does amber preserve a sliver of Baltic light? What is allowed the rose, burdened as it is with significance, its innermost aspects threadbare, worse for wear? Have you, like I, at last been thwarted by the vagaries of circumstances?

 

: :

 

The day the war ends, one notes the lazy way smoke hoists itself up out of the chimneys, how the last of the migrating flocks, drawn elsewhere, spill out of the trees.  Some things are known only in transit. One weeps, thus fails to behold the soul exit its body.

 

: :

 

Not a single name in the hotel registry. The cage of the elevator waits at an upper floor. The concierge, you assume, has step away for a moment. The buzz of overhead lights evens out the silence. The little bell waits: polished, unrung.

 

: :

 

 

Like the plump bee on the hollyhock, or the garter snake sunning on slate, one is merely a lodger here. Swifts trace elaborate spirals above a ruined chapel with four winds as walls. A muddy wheel rut, full of water, gleams.

 

: :

 

The hiss and crack of quick-burning tinder.  Ice ceasing up around a ship’s wooden hull. The sound of a mountain waterfall through dense forest. A leather bellow’s asthmatic huff. A sudden clatter outside like an avalanche of axes.

 

: :

 

“Surely, a time will come when on those frontiers a farmer, as he ploughs with his curved blade, will turn up ancient javelins eaten away with flaky rust, or will strike with his heavy hoe empty helmets, and marvel at giants’ bones in the upturned graves.”

 

: :

 

How does the nightingale extricate itself from night? What is the word that means that which could not have been conceived of at the outset? Why did she smile when we called her honesty ruthless? How does the green shoot break through the bark inaudibly?

 

: :

 

River mist lifts in the middle distance and the bridge beyond, foundered in fog, submerges into background. How else to read the bluish gray expanse across a deeper bone-soot gray, the arcana of cross-hatches, smudges, and ink-smears?

 

: :

 

A lead plumb holds the vertical. The alchemical glyph for lead is the scythe of Saturn. Saturn’s heart, cut into, gleams a moment like lead, but tarnishes. It is sweet, nonetheless, touched to the tongue. On the periodic table, lead is the last of the stable elements.

 

: :

 

Like the candle a midwife bares at a tragedy’s end. Like sparrows all winter weaving shrouds. Like the bloat and draggle of a body caught in a deluge. Like the tarnished tin of a moonlit death mask. Like a pack of jackals asleep among the tombs.

 

: :

 

Soon, a nimbus of stars will enthrone the woods. Soon, the woods will hold the stars aloft. At the cusp of another night: cobra lilies bow their heads. What is the tensile strength of light, starlight made matter on a wind-torn web?

 

 

 

Eric Pankey is the author of many collections of poems. A new one, AUGURY, is forthcoming from Milkweed Editions in 2017. He teaches in the BFA and MFA programs at George Mason University.

Current
Share This