Lisa Russ Spaar is the author of many collections of poetry, most recently Satin Cash (2008) and the forthcoming Vanitas, Rough
(2012), both published by Persea Books. She is the editor of Acquainted with the Night: Insomnia Poems and All that Mighty Heart: London Poems, and a collection of her essays, The Hide-and-Seek Muse: Annotations of Contemporary Poetry, is due out from Drunken Boat Media in 2013. Her awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Rona Jaffe Award, the Carole Weinstein Poetry Prize, and the Library of Virginia Award for Poetry. She is a professor of English and Creative Writing at the University of Virginia.
Ancestral slosh, black forest
of bridge trestles, syrupy rivers of South Jersey,
O Lutheran, O German School, O being Shunned
& Different there. But also here, where centuries
of Rhine, of Alsace, still in me find me,
stone-benched & exiled, innoble, petrol, history,
with wastrel dragonfly vagrant at my glass—
sugar, herb, perfume. Everything but the squeal
in the pepper pot, Germantown scrapple,
souse, head cheese, but for generations this scleral draft,
prow and ease, melancholia’s sweet quench
washing it down. All distance. Day’s blench.
Bated ruby, guru occult,
you show yourself to us
after we— in gambit of breed,
of anchorite, of wind-thieved
bondage—have broken fast
an hour terraced, gifted.
Unskulled by our new names,
no need now to pronounce
yours. Unleashed dogs,
magnolia tongue, galleries of clouds
scud your historical, destined tidings,
votary, from branch to branch.
Where now? Where ever be your twigs
& shell & twining, we are your flying.
Like a balcony, seized from behind,
held up by gods no one trusts,
deity of pseudonym, of crush, ransom notes,
ropes, lies. Sometimes abandoned
but not unpromised among the terraces
of air. I waited there.
Years. And love at last did climb, O Romance,
the thorny orchard balustrades
even as I press now a silvering arm to railing,
Never mind the centuries.
Ours is an old tale. That first time,
flush from climbing, as I fawn-stared
from a chalice hold of hall-light, in chain glint
he unclipped from belt, watch, coin, keys,
taking time in an aerie of sheet and mirror,
flitch of mooned curtain panels swelling,
holding, blowing away the world,
that from our faces disbelief might fall.
Photograph of Ms Spaar by Jen Fariello