Monday, 28 September 2009

Barbara Guest's The Countess from Minneapolis (Burning Deck, 1976)

Absolutes simmer as primary colors
and everyone gropes toward black
where it is believed the strength lingers.

"River Road Studio"

Unreasonable lenses refract the
sensitive rabbit holes, mole dwellings and snake
climes where twist burrow and sneeze
a native species

opening stanza of "Prairie Houses"

There was a poem with
A Moon in it travelling across the bridge in one
Of those fragile trains carrying very small loads
Like moons that one could never locate anywhere else.
The Mississippi was bright under the bridge like a
Sun, because the poem called itself the Sun also;
Two boxcars on the bridge crossing the river.

[untitled; from the work numbered 32]


The problem proposed to the lemon tree. When will your green fruit turn yellow? When shall I understand Minneapolis?

If not grain by grain, at least loaf by loaf.

If not the river flow, at least its turn and tributary.

Still there are permissions to approach through that immigrant air.

[As they do not work as well out of context, I've not included the most humorous work in the book, the quirky poems that provide accounts of the Countess's life. You'll just have to see the collection, which I borrowed from (and returned to) The Poetry Library in London.]

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