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THE SOLACE OF ISLANDS

ANSIE BAIRD

BLAZEVOX[BOOKS]
Buffalo, New York

The Solace of Islands
by Ansie Baird
Copyright © 2016
Published by BlazeVOX [books]
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced without
the publisher’s written permission, except for brief quotations in
reviews.
Printed in the United States of America
Interior design and typesetting by Geoffrey Gatza
Cover Art by Beth Munro
First Edition
ISBN: 978-1-60964-242-6
Library of Congress Control Number: 2015958571
BlazeVOX [books]
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Kenmore, NY 14217
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I
A Drift Of Mergers

A DRIFT OF MERGERS
I.
Breath of my knee
brow of my wrist
hip of my throat
tongue of my bone
eye of my rib
ear of my thigh
lip of my hand
palm of my heel
neck of my arm
tooth of my skin
mouth of my heart
thrumming
II.
If passion were harmony
we'd memorize the song
a frolic of notes
graceful as spokes
on the oak railing
leading upstairs
but it's not
it's a plaint
composed in the basement
faint moans on the oboe

v 17

III.
Doubt everything
except the moon
perpetually changing
hour by hour
putting on a new face
its variations a kind
of comfortable
discomfort
as you wait
scanning the dark
IV.
Water bathe my wounds
matter mold my clay
silence slip the sounds
clattering the day
window halt the wind
flaming over skin
midnight hold my bones
sheltering within.

v 18

BIG BAND
It was only when he stood up
in his trim black shirt from among
the other men in his section, only
when he separated himself from
the many players in the brass band,
placing the saxophone in his mouth,
sending forth a sound almost as clear
as the human voice reverberating
in the attentive air -- it was only then,
as he stood among the old-timers, strangers
she had never seen before, that she could not
take her eyes off his tender, aging face.
Into the woody mid-day tavern, dim
despite a flush of outside sunshine,
she arrived breathless at noon, having
travelled twelve whole minutes
to a foreign land here in her familiar town,
here to behold this player of song,
this man looking up at her, pitching
his melodies right in her direction, all the places
she calls home: leaded glass windows,
small grassy paths, backyards hidden by hedges.
That afternoon she found cities within cities,
carrying her neighborhood around in her arms.

v 19

SHOFAR AND THE KITCHEN TABLE
He was talking about the shofar,
how the high pitch of the ram's horn
calling the faithful to prayer or to
repentance has a kind of ancient
resonance, its sustained notes
in sequence sounding something
like a sob or a wail, linking all
the living and the dead.
How it connects melodically
with the summoning trumpet of
more recent eras, swooping out over
gatherings with all its glittering assertion -so that even today, when the band
begins to play, there's that brave strain.
And she was half-listening to every
learned word he uttered, thinking:
If I lean in a little closer to catch
the nuances, I could begin
unbuttoning the cuff of his plaid
shirt so I could slide my hand up
his forearm as far as the elbow
and feel the warm skin beneath
my searching fingers.
And how he would let her do that,
would in fact barely glance up
from his steaming bowl of supper
to smile at the intrusion.

v 20

And how the almost melodic tone
of the shofar, heard blaring from
an ancient hilltop across a great
distance, and the almost melodic
stroking of a man's arm, felt across
any kitchen table, are parts
of a continuous cycle, linking
ceremony and our private hearts.

v 21

TAKE ONE
When the camera mounts the stairs,
it arrives at an ordinary bedroom
strewn with blue wool blankets
on a messy bed, a wide shot of
wide shades wide open
at three windows, not
a pulled-down position
made for embracing.
Unruly light, busy old sun,
seems intrusive in such a space.
Easy enough to fix.
Yank down the blinds
so a blue-gray cast
permits two classical bodies
to move into each other's sphere.
Off come the boots, the shoes,
the thick socks. Stockings flung
on the floor. Buttons unbuttoned,
shirts tugged over heads, all
tossed in heaps on the rug.
The director notes they're having
so much fun, perhaps they'd consider
beginning the process all over again,
each actor grinning gladly
as the other struggles out
from confining clothing
a second time or even a third,
until they collide into each other,
warm skin to skin as in a dream.

v 22

The camera pulls back to reveal
a secluded interior, soft lighting
in the space between takes,
amber whiskey in two crystal
glasses resting on a bedside-table.
And in the final cut, a close-up
of two people laughing, his hands
deftly unclasping a tangled strand
of glowing blue beads at her throat.

v 23

CLARIFYING THE LANGUAGE
As a traveler who turns aside
in the night in unfamiliar terrain,
assuming on faith an unlatched door
and a jolt of warm whisky are within,
just so he arrived at her front door,
out of breath, in casual disarray.
He called her by name,
whispered in her untranslated brain
the complex grammar of their history,
its varied pronouns, the conditional,
the way his foot cramps in the night.
Here where scant light clatters,
their paired voices create a fine dialect,
a just-invented language,
practicing adverbs quickly, voraciously.

v 24

CORRESPONDENCE
Dear Landscape, she writes.
My yard is larger than yours
yet I seldom trudge the back forty.
Your porch has pots growing things.
Herbs and grasses. Not that I care.
Rabbits are rampant everywhere.
These letters crisscross like zinnias.
Sometimes she addresses him,
Dearest Lamb. Other times,
Dear Escaped Convict. Green trees
disguise him. Around any corner, he
might as well be in another time zone.
They plot their embraces across
the International Date Line.
Shoals and sand bars dominate
fields between sidewalks.
A garage light, left burning,
throws patterns on concrete walls,
indecipherable scrawls. They never
know what new impediment
will obstruct their garden plot.
He travels in any manner of
conveyance. Wheels or a litter.
Oh letter! she writes, your alibis
carry you over potholes and
grasslands, circuitous routes to arrive
breathless, in helmet, gear and riffraff.
She seldom dresses for the occasion.
Dear Open Boat, she writes.
Dear Hover Craft.
Dear battered Snow Mobile.
Come when the weather moderates.
Dear Landscape, my sweet thicket.
v 25

THE DENT

What remains
is the dent
in the crisp
pillowcase where
recently he rested
his Archaic head
more marble
than flesh lavish
the head
Greek-like in
outline a kind of
hero extolled
by a lone passing
minstrel
Now is left
only the dent
from the head
as he slept
on his cheek
as if some dusty
curator placed in
a museum case
a shadowed
piece polished and
gleaming angular
nose lips chin
lids closed
resting just this
afternoon tousled
curls quarried and
carved formal
bold immortal
The head so
recently lying
next to her own
v 26

Preserve it
a dent
in the gleaming
white pillow
Encase it in stone.

v 27

DISCORDANT
Your life and your
life and it's not
as though she
doesn't have -and it's not
as though cluttered
and battered maybe
flattened mangled
maybe like the
god damn
weather -- absurd
lake effects unheard of affection
doubtless unstable this weather
loose slats flapping
high winds such
definition of household inhabitants
ambling the shimmering streets in
frequent no-show
no more snow in
spite of
because of
your life and
whose life
and her

v 28

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