G.C. Waldrep’s recent work appears or is forthcoming in Boulevard, Verse, New American Writing, Boston Review, and other journals. His fourth collection, Your Father on the Train of Ghosts (in collaboration with John Gallaher), was released by BOA Editions in 2011. He lives in Lewisburg, PA, where he teaches at Bucknell University, edits the journal West Branch, and serves as editor-at-large for The Kenyon Review.
The sick queen crochets bees
from pockets palsied stevedores
serrate, then ties with string the cineplex
to suburbs swabbed in pollen.
The poet speaks precisely so we hear
the “b” in “lamb,” the “p” and “t”
of “slept,” the double “s” of “thrusts”
while just outside
the mad persist in solitary
telethons. I misperceive nativity
for one more language I can’t learn,
se-quench of tongue (re)versed
and versioned in the barrel chests
of ocean liners. The sick queen coughs
a scratchy patch of plexiglass
on which some doctor’s
dank prescription branches as a scrawl.
The poet fell from recompense
to music, skint her shin on hardware
battened to this beescape.
No defendant pleads.
There is forgiveness here
I want to say, but trains plunge south
like Polaroids from basements
where the whistling armies, locked
in spite, perfect their burrows. Cheese,
they say, and darkness
smiles: the withered queen declines
into a ribbon cities wear.
In such constraints banks often close.
I, in the air, reflect the waves
Orion twists from matter’s flank,
redemptive seiche—thin arrows
that disturb the bees’
concise matriculations. Some queens
demand Scriabin in the spring;
some lay aside their gowns
when chemistry inflects their careful
apercus. It’s true, elections fly
too close to furnaces
we cannot see. Break this vase
compunction says—now use one shard
to fletch the wound, this orchard’s
urban vantage strained
from wax. Chyme decorates
the analects with noxious dust. I claim:
a theft, a hex, a wing.
All queens and poets shape alike
the same deserted algorithm.
We entertain the mad. They whisper
songs no traveler dares sing.
—for Oni Buchanan