April 11, 2012KR OnlinePoetry

Dust; Interior Shot

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Inquire of the dust its component parts.

       beauty, brevity, blur.

Ask why the light can so easily lift it.

       hearts’ chambers, the torn
       legs of arachnids, broken bits of cricket wings . . .

Inquire of the dust its forwarding address.

       settle.                     settle.

Ask if it feels the weight of its past.

       not often:
              nail parings, fray of lace, friction-grit of hinges,
              flesh (violated flesh), diamonds (blood diamonds) . . .

Ask, what else is there?


Ask what use.

       diamond dust on a phonograph needle: a cello’s woundedness,
       metal filings from a scalpel or a sword: what must be lost before
                     for good or ill—it’s possible to pierce a human heart;
       pollen dust in all its abundance: risk gathered to a certainty;
       the list could continue…

But what use?

       in an ancient tale dust repented and was dust again.

What use is that?

       beauty, brevity, blur.

No, to us?

       beauty, brevity, blur.

Interior Shot

“Our memories are encumbered with facts.
Beyond recollections . . . we should like to relive
our suppressed impressions and the dreams that made us. . . . ”
          —Gaston Bachelard

Five blades hang stilled above a bed—
its linens broken open; shadow
                         of an oaken armoire
cast across the folded spread;
heavy glass windows hoisted on ropes,
their frames fixed
              at oblique angles.

The blades must have been rotating slowly
when the shutter fell and the flash caught
those ghost-oars in the act
                         of parting
the heavy sleeping-porch air,
stirring a haze of half-lit dust—
a dust settled now
              for half my life.

Three small children slept here that night,
their skin cooled in the August swelter
by darknesses turning smoothly above them.
                         No one left
in this snapshot, though. Nor do I remember
my dreams that night, whether they woke me.
Nor what I heard: the burr
              of a long-awaited rain?
the whisper of tires pulling off down the drive?
Nor whether my eyelids lifted to headlights
crossing the ceiling, baring
                         these blades
in a slash of light, before the fan
(that never, of course, stopped turning) resumed
its circle and drone
              of denial.

And now, this room whose existence had thinned
over time to doubt, worn down to dream,
returns to my hand
                         indisputable proof
of whatever it was occurred that night.
Or never occurred. Or would,
while we slept, go on
              forever occurring.

Marjorie Stelmach is the author of three books of poems, most recently Bent Upon Light (Tampa, 2009). She served, until her recent retirement, as the director of the Howard Nemerov Writing Scholars Program at Washington University in St. Louis.