Mudlark Poster No. 78 (2009)

Five Poems by Sarah Gridley

Honey Ants | Is He Decently Put Back Together?
Return of the Native to the Widespread Hour
Ovation | The Orator’s Maximal Likelihood

Sarah Gridley’s poems have appeared in Chicago Review, Denver Quarterly, The Beloit Poetry Journal, jubilat, Drunken Boat, Meridian, Journal 1913, VOLT, Barrow Street, Crazyhorse, Gulf Coast, and Tusculum Review. Weather Eye Open, her first collection of poems, was published by the University of California Press (Berkeley 2005). A new collection, Green Is the Orator, is forthcoming from California in 2010. She received an MFA from the University of Montana in 2000, where she was a Richard Hugo Scholar and won the 1999 Merriam Frontier Award. Currently she is a Lecturer in poetry at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

Honey Ants

North-east of Alice Springs, further along the Darwin highway,
a place was named Utopia prior to its settlement.

It could be rhythm lies in expectation, and expectation, in memory.
Gum tree, gum tree, no gum tree, gum tree.

Alone again with ochre and a stretch of wall, we know whatever we follow
will sometime come off-center. Sun and hope, dazzling and invisible. Our own acts

of touching follow, feeling nothing we cannot alter
by making it consciously so.

Is He Decently Put Back Together?

If there is nothing half-assed about the redbud tree, she can be beside it
compositionally, in the form of a spring tableau. See her female

receding to a slight power. Coefficient before a vivid variable,
amplifying, as will the May wind, a purple of the bark-

bearing flowers.
Was it happening to be there, or coming to act

in keeping with one’s nature? Who has thought that a soul
is a list of things to be done? Far into the color

of a scene’s exaggeration, the lagoon is reading
dreadful words to itself. Looking glass for an apple

in flower,
for that cost of the sky on its surface.

Return of the Native to the Widespread Hour

in the yellow caravan the feather merchant
has sold out of wares

ambitious only to feel
                                             a coat’s inner lining
in performing one normal action backward
I sublime, I go beneath
the oldest stone, I greet the interruptive
shake before duration
breathe on a harpsichord             and it will sound
put a chunk of salt on your tongue            to name the ocean
now my resources
are wanting to reach me
              understanding with a red cloth tied around my neck
where leafage
is system to leaves


It is possibly warmer than Hades in here. Sewn to slats of whalebone,
a rainbow brightening air, what remains
of the Carolina Parakeet—saffron, lemon, viridian—a wrist
snaps open to fan.

Small miracles go out in summary. At last the opera curtain rises,
and most of the house, after clearing its throats, goes still.

The tin man gene is said to make a fly’s  heart.
Seeing that it will eat the dead, evolution (not to say beautifully)
bares the vulture’s head. And the tenor exhales
a high C forte.

When the lyre was fished from the violent river, the stars took
wing around it. Near Draco and Cygnus, we can choose which bird
we imagine falling. Aquila cadens, Vulture cadens....

To make the heart fly, the barn owl opens
its face in trees.

Or passes the mallows in other names—

delicate owl      death owl
rat owl               straw owl.

The Orator’s Maximal Likelihood

In turning your heart to a pulpit, you captured 
a sample of persuasion: gray, the passenger 
pigeons, the migrateurs, gray the epigraphical palettes, 
the small, uncertain laughters 
at the cages of animals. 
There is a hard work you ate in honey. 
There is a hard work in parts of speech. 
Once you lost track of statistics, dust arose 
to reckon cobwebs. The errand is all 
about you: a demon sings, the song is yours, 
a fog catcher catches condensation. 
On the strength of its first thread, a spider commits 
design, commits its body’s lengths
to measurements of silk. 
Page the page. 
Where is now the outline of the law? A left-out word 
like gossamer. A word left out like grace. 
Law of truce and probability. 
Law of the horse coming down from the hill. 
Human in the dullest outline.
Outline of the law, interior shades suggesting 
evening, dark pink like an anatomical page, 
dark pink like the ivory lampshade. 
A word, then, for who will conquer it?  
To the hands suggesting prayer, 
law of excavation, law of the implicate, coming thing, 
cream white corymbs of the rowan in flower.

Copyright © Mudlark 2009
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