by Leslie Fox
(Click here for full image)
Four poems by Annette Basalyga
Less the hot oil
than the touch
of her close look woke Eros
to lamp light,
her polished wrists,
and back behind
the rim of light,
the stroke of her bent face.
He was full-seen,
spied upon in dreams of her,
and he was Love.
Through airy curtains
the young god fled,
without a backward look
at bed or staring girl,
who only asked
what anybody would,
and she was false.
did not recall her burial:
the close air that enseamed her
like a wedding dress,
dirt veiling closed eyes, or the echoes
of his grateful second thoughts.
She returned with the look
of one who had traveled widely,
assumed a conjugal attitude
as one remembering the customs of her native land
imperfectly. She took up her duties
where she found them,
She, whose maids once dreaded
her sharp eyes, never surprised the pantry
to count potatoes or weigh the honey,
and finally lost the storeroom key.
Whereupon doth very seldom an ill soul dwell in a beautiful body.
I never questioned
that the giant grew
with the muscular anger of his bad intent,
or that the dwarf’s size was
a punishment, the outward shirt
of some cramped spite.
Nothing of nuance there.
The hag at the crossroads
had been waiting forever
for the simple shepherd boy.
Squinting and warty, her crowd was all the same.
Their deeds were likenesses.
To be themselves was all they had to do.
And allegory, too, those maidens good as they were fair
in lambent towers or lingering
in the formal gardens of their courtesy.
Which of their company
could be prepared for the subtle complications,
commonplace deformities, the impertinence
of somebody’s cousin, or that ruined prince
pleading no cause but his resemblance to fact?
Poolside, she should have seen
the tarnished crown, and later
as he crossed the darkened porch
she should have been advised.
Lady, turn and run away
No fall from grace or wonder
has disfigured him. Though
he is an impostor, this
is no disguise, and nothing
will restore him to the fiction
of your own content.
It’s now he shows to best advantage
coughing and croaking at the massive door.
Goldilocks came to visit me today.
Her voice was a telephone telling the truth.
No ing’s, the drawl of iron licorice,
the news that Papa Bear’s in love with me,
with me the breakfast mush
is fine. I had her word for it.
Goldie, I should have said,
the anecdote’s a bad habit;
it substitutes for real exchange.
But living as I do, I’ve grown to like the silence,
and I could tell you, if I had the time,
how on my walks I hide the cottage key
where nobody will find it.
The trees are always whispering
what I’m the last to hear. The birds
and squirrels, doing their Disney things,
and the feeling something’s cooling off
back home are bound to get me down.
But I take walks...
on unremarkable paths,
the stares of animals in pain and drawn out of hiding,
are what I like. I kill the small, tame beasts
that come to me in friendship.
So do what you have to, Goldie,
make your unexpected calls.
Papa and the Baby Bears
will tuck you in
and eat each other up.
I’m free and clear:
a forest in a soft bed, a middle-sized chair
in my own house.
January 5. I’m having an eremitical pang on the feast day
of St. Simon or Simeon, looniest of all the desert fathers.
I, who couldn’t get away from parents, husbands, children,
dogs and cats, who could never just walk over any horizon,
into any sunset, have read a poem so beautiful
it cracked my ribs and sent me to the bio page
to find the poet, the unknown wonder, “now living in seclusion”
which is somewhere south of Scranton. Maybe a location different from
solitude, from living alone, or being dumped, or having the little ones
leave the nest. Seclusion is the nest, with a Dutch-door cottage
open to long walks, the time to read and write, and healthful lunches
of grains and sprouts. Time to enjoy those decorator touches,
flowers in a blue bowl, probably trillium, a recorder, a music stand,
the music bel tempo. Who wouldn’t sign on?
* * * * *
But not for a likelier scenario: to crawl along the silhouette
of mountains taller than the lid of my mind’s eye, or wash up
on a beach that must be Nova Scotia or the gray NJ shore.
Head for a house inland, a clearing in the woods, not gingerbread
but Unabomber mode, a cabin, curtainless and filthy, windows
plastered with the classifieds, and inside, a table
with an odd triangular stain, bare mattress, stone for a pillow,
a clutch of poultry waiting to be eaten, needing care.
To get away, a way, away from it all, from some of it
or any of it, better change your name and look for
a new backyard in Iowa. The plaid shirt on the clothesline
in a color you would never wear, will wave hello,
and in less pain than it takes to lose your fingerprints,
you will make a new life where everything has changed
except your memories. There in alien corn
keep a low profile, eat in, stay out of churches. Private devotions
bring you to the saint of the day.
Simeon, looking to be alone, traveled to the desert out of town.
For a hideout he built his first pillar just 9 ft high and made the climb.
The curious came to see him standing tall. So two more columns,
higher every time, his fourth and last at 60 ft, built by the crowd itself,
his audience for solitude as spectacle,
liking a good long-running show.
Clever of him to find that hermitage, to weather like a rock,
the serial stylite, turning in whatever direction put the wind at his back,
the sun on a face he no longer remembered.
“Fairy Tales” was previously published in Windhover
“Blonde Burning” was previously published in Iris
“In Seclusion” was previously published in Atlanta Review