What's the dollar, love? We bees
dissembling under the stars, the stores, and
herein birth's mighty smile, simplest of apertures.
Into which: a spate of verbs, or swallowing,
the wing and throat,
the bird and a damp tunnel of shift,
appetite and simple forgetting
as you notice the very moment when
what might have occurred went blank.
Some Latin phrase here would be useful.
Some sign of tears wet enough to wipe
up after you, specific and not, you and not,
stayed by our restless sorrow, our muted flight.



I might have done a better job of acknowledging
the song or at least its lyrics, so difficult now, but
then, because I could sing along and the melody
sweet, everyone agreed, in unison, and there wasn’t a
tax bill in sight. Where were you? The children ask.
Under the canopy, I said, lying,
under the tent. Under the weather of better days
when I practiced as a matter of course and was not
accosted by dreams of the Monarch. This is my
reverent imitation, which is how I once learned
to play the instrument of choice, holding the bow.


Unbelief, Seeing


Yellow fortifies the drone’s
               flared assertions, as of wind.

Redeemed from an old file,
             misnomers flee to attic dust.  

Habitus of software: unroofed palace,
               leaked oil, etymology

French and distributed across
               the site’s icon and partial

 song. Hemlock shade. Open mouth
              stuck in the modem’s blinking pulse.

An adventure among  
              particulars, none of them recalled,

as if sorrow could take one abroad,
              away from the recluse harbor.


Forfeiture at the gates: the merry
widow, the wise fool. O dearest

clone, put on your hat and shoes,
make your slow way across the rug.

What remains?  Excess,
trace. The soldiers have left

the field. The students are
in the building. Fires are set.

Our Lady of Masks is about to visit,
white gloves drawn over dark nails.

Our Lady of Dread is casting her vote,
hair a pale shimmer

in spring rain.  Humming, she
counts her pennies and the dead.


The crows are indifferent

but urgent.
The heron lopes

across a blowsy sky,

west to east,
seemingly enchanted

with itself.

An aristocratic bird, in

Plato’s terms: noble
and graceful.

A boat is wheeled
down to the river.

The stones are
indifferent. Also the grass.

The bathers became paint.
The paint points

forward to a boy
wearing a black shirt with letters.

The letters are indifferent.
A girl reads the words on the shirt.




Here in meandered appetite,
our trial by fire becoming

Angel dust. Sense

floats off without comparison
to the Near and the Near’s

far example. Then

Nonsense hitches up her skirt, beckons
the armed boys to follow, singing, she
sings the whole way down the tracks
into the far dry field where hands
of a clock lie pointing. We might have
been lurking or otherwise waiting
but we had forgotten

for what. Then

hungers set loose, without a bare
object or thing. As if a statue with a

hole at its center, headless, and
beautiful because we are awed by ruin.


Materialist closet awakens its trove.

An encyclopedia in the ditch
and a child’s fervid hand, dallying
under the auspices of dream.

Time again for Mistress Nonsense
to resume her spell
calling forth the witch’s hat,
the three-cornered Kingdom of Did.

Did not. Did.  Ocean in an
envelope of watery air,
child sitting on the beach with a pail.

Descriptive agency
muted against 
the arrested cycle. How to
add on, how
turn to that ship
lost in yesterday’s fog?

He buries his arms in sand.
He watches the clouds.
Wind’s disobedient push fuels the way.  


Hooligan atmosphere of the upswept word,
the traveling Once, partially redeemed
as coupon promise. Go farther
whispers the bad girl from under the tarp.
Go as far as the other side of the moon
where all the bearers gather to test her gaze.

Cave or tomb, a game of
hounds and jackals. You go first.  
Picturing the scald of the darkest star.
Picturing the oceanic rule.
Picturing an arrow lodged in an hour

and so tethered to night’s
spinning wreath, despite
assemblies of image
high overhead, 
folds of winged fire
in the implicate order.


The insufficient cluster
forms its sign.  The
instruction, written, 
lost among amulets and jewels
of what was once the horizon’s tool,
                       a prelude, its thought
                             musical and blind.  We might have
                                           resided there, listening 
                                                   to the thrum and waiting
                                   to catch a glimpse of crimson
           on stone, a wound or prayer
where also were found signs of ancestral deeds.
Recursive, in wave patterns, rings of hair and bone.



Signal, Motif


They return to trade
places they come back to play
among wet stones under
the fence along the path, to
fly out from sockets of air.
Not to imagine changes ---
static to movement, gray to
rusted metallic -- cropped
onto the brightly zoned
animate debris. To look,
to be scalded by a form
on the clock’s deadpan face.
Just below artifice  
trillions again arguing for, or
molesting, the body’s revision.


 O browned alley of restless
              along the very edge of sight
           there is nothing
to capture
      the halted yellow stick
                bow tied to tree
    stooped naked trunk
        additions that amount to
           the way a vessel slides
yet unclosed  if you happen to see
          needles filtered
disclosed then
as if closer than light
               disclosed as motion
       whose scant repeat
                        over and under
                                  knots the frame.      



[Ann Lauterbach's tenth collection of poems, SPELL, is forthcoming from Penguin in Fall 2018. She is co-cahir of Writing in the MFA at Bard College, where she is also Schwab Professor of Languages and Literature. A native of New York City, she lives in Germantown, New York.]

Copyright © 2017 by Ann Lauterbach, all rights reserved. This text may be used and shared in accordance with the fair-use provisions of Copyright law. Archiving, redistribution, or republication of this text on other terms, in any medium, requires the notification of the journal and consent of the author.