24 September 2008

Oni Buchanan

[from Oni Buchanan's prize-winning Spring from The University of Illinois Press, 2008]

The Sleepers

And in the dimness of the corridor, a waking person steps
soundlessly through the rows of unseen sleepers, each
in his individual box behind a wall.

Another treads elsewhere, a parallel corridor, a carpet
of deep maroon absorbing the weight of the step,
the sound of the step, as if no one —

The gray wears a gray scarf, knitted, about its throat,
or seeps from itself, evaporating into gray, a mist, heapings of
     insulation, the itch
of material, gray swathe, stiff canvas of filament — and above,
outside the hallways (rectangular prisms of gray) (two telescopes of
     gray capped on either end):
the dull stars stuck over the earth like buttons in a dust upholstery.

And sing soft to one another, and the bodies follow from offstage,
from behind the heavy plush, where the ropes are held and the hands
     dressed in black
flit between the long, thin planes of scenery —

On the path we saw a tanager like an orange handkerchief pulled
     through the leaves.

There is always that distant tremolo in the air that rises from the
from the graves in the dell,
and the kingfisher diving over the membrane of pond.

And above all the tangle (the matted earth, the root hairs and
bundles, the barky breachings of gnarl, the bullfrogs and the
the squirrels growing fatter, and then the panoplies of
like a game of stacking hands, or canopies

where the branches arch in ribs) above:
the spots of chimney sparrows flitting like eye motes over the white
     of the sky.
The rattle of the sparrows like a handful of dice
or dried beans thrown into a toy drum

(the sound of the rattle like a hemisphere of straight pins
radiating from their cushion, the pin heads balancing each
its million spots of light, allotted, while beneath
and down to the sharpened tip, the long metal shafts
vibrate invisibly: sleep.

Sleep. Sleep. Your separate sleeps — )

Spring (National Poetry Series)

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