two poems by Ken Meisel

I Am Not the Composer of Poetic Reverie Anymore

- Robert Schumann to Clara Wieck



he said to her, sitting with her along the simple fountain

in the aftermath of the war. “And you are not the red rose

anymore. You are not, shall I say it, in your light skirts

anymore like you once were outside the speak easy where

the pink pants, the young homosexuals used to cruise

each other, violins in hand, lips frosted and glittered

like ghosted, young anorexics, noses full of pimp dust.

For we are orphaned now from the stronger age, robust

as it was, auricular hallucinations of music in otherwise

deaf ears and eager hearts, so enunciated, and now

we are independent of it all, we are free.” And her, “I see it.”

And him, “the buildings, (look around us), the library

and the music hall and the Café Traumerei No. 7 are collapsed,

they are architectural dust, their steps are ruined.”

The wind blew and so they stepped backwards, together,

into a fourier of an old hotel, sat down on a dusty couch

full of plaster, chinks of the ceiling, chandelier glass.

Him to her, “we are extinguished but free, nothing—

but an occasional reminiscence is preferable to desperate

independence,” and he held his face in hand, hiding it.

Felt the darkness come over him, take him by the ears.

She looked hard at him, trying to find his eyes, said

“it’s going to rain, do you feel it?” and him, “yes, at my

temples I feel it, in my elbows too and down, along

my sides.” Beside them, outside a building whose façade

had blown open like a face a man, a Nigerian, sold

crack cocaine in small, easy to open packets and a girl,

someone not any older than fifteen, a young lady flower,

stood languidly on the half-collapsed steps, waiting,

a camellia in her hair. “Far off,” he said to her, “can you

hear it, the polka someone’s playing on the rugby field,”

and her, “I am a shadow, don’t leave me,” and him, “you

are the leaf (touching her on the arm now, caressing it,

her arm,) you are the leaf, music the wind, I shall leave you.”

She Was Caressing Me



She was caressing me, I’m quite sure of it now,

though it doesn’t make any sense to me

that a strange woman from the room next door to me

would suddenly slide the curtain open and climb

into the bed with me for some purpose I couldn’t see.

And the milky way of stars across my body,

on my legs and stomach, on my chest, had opened

I was a felled tree lying there just breaking open.

I’m telling you this happened to me. It’s all true.

I was a broken tree filled with blinking opened eyes.

All across my body were hordes of opened eyes.

This was in a hospital. I was nineteen years old

and I’d just had leg surgery, and my legs were

solid logs with their bark ripped open by surgeons.

My whole body was a tree wrapped in bandages

and so much after-blood. She’d crawled up in bed

with me, her own hospital gown covering her body

which was thin and bony, like a California

laurel tree. And her thin hands were touching

the places on my skin where I was ripped open,

or I’d thickened over with the coarse resin of trauma.

The dusk had grabbed light. It was a black window.

The dark was invading the room and closing it.

And together we lay there, wounded, healing,

all the opened eyes on my body, on my legs

and all across my sheltered heart, on my neck

and on my belly, and even in my groin, could see.


Jody Plant