Octet: The Trial

At two, a light and a flung-open casement,
a man leans far into the night,
unbalanced, stretching both arms out
as if he could fly (if he were not invisibly
anchored to a floor). Invisible, too,
his tormentor, his judge.  His god–or
more than one, or more, or everyone,
and how will that court be called to order?




Octet: Unfinished

Smaller, infinitely small, like micrographia
in a nutshell. The Gallimard notebook
still in its wrapper, Cette Année-là…,
the joke’s on me. Was I always barking
up the wrong tree? Wrong forest.
wrong ring, wrong age. On the shelf
behind the exhausted librarian: the perfected
herbarium. Check it out.




Octet: Protest

To do something, to be among,
to surge in the excitement of pain, to sing,
to be pressed, to cling and swell and move,
before the hidden end and beginning.
The fierce smile, the raised fist,
the girl’s thrill, lifted onto shoulders,
the rumor mill, the blockade,
the photos posted, the papers, the trash.




Octet: The Looter

His lawn chair on the sidewalk behind a stack
of battered shoeboxes, he sits like a poet,
maybe showing, maybe selling. Maison
Margiela, The Royale-Blanco Gum.
Most precious, Fear of God, Men’s
Suede, made by slaves. By his side,
the charred mannequin, cool at last.
He smiles and gently pats her on the ass.



Octet: Curfew

Six o’clock, the cell phones whirr and leap:
the curfew. The wrens retreat, the woodchucks
dart beneath the wall. At Tommy’s, a mother
empties the drier and packs the still-wet
laundry in a trash bag. Cigarettes stubbed,
the buses out of service. The grocery
shut behind plywood and chains. From
the old French: cuevre-fu. To cover fire.


[Susan Stewart's most recent books are Cinder: New and Selected Poems and The Ruins Lesson. She lives in Philadelphia.]

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