Jennifer Moxley

Poems from The Sense Record (Edge Books, 2004)


The Lock


Is between her crescented neck and the open legs of the bed
where passion pleats the fragile back into a diamond
of cut geometry, two complementary angles,
one his thinly veiled backside, a fist of arrogant
devious Eros garrotting her round the yellow waist,
the other the dread stripped voiceless "o,"
phantom drawn on her grey-swept lips,
the vain escaping utterance muffled
in lengths of ceiling-to-floor red folds
that leave the mind no quarter.

Locked by the practiced sense, our intimate, stubborn,
memories are textured, 'til what resistant fence of spleen
we lastly held is lathed away, roughened by ignorance
but not yet gallant for the love of frank luxury
we might imbue the satinate room in blood metaphors,
invent an impotence en route to the sensorium,
just as lost when thinking, where pricked
the slight secretion of his quiver? The sweep of tongue
through the peel of fabric, layer upon layer away from her skin?

We are exactly aroused by arrangement,
as the unaccustomed eye in too much light
does redden, weep and shut, around the head
do creep a suite of senses not our own: unlock follows lock
follows contrition swept solitude, tiny bird dead in the scoff
of moonlight, curled desire, and then the triangle of deep light,
followed by the obvious question: must it always
end in shadow, line, brushstroke, etc. What sort of man
would leave us here, resistance out of reach?

The device is that of an egoist, the scene is left
in three-quarters shade of imagination,
the rotation is one without motion, a beauty pellicle held
far from the limit of subsequence, inconsequent moment
from which the master rises on his toes and draws an "x,"
extends and reaches for the lock, but the sliding door remains as painted,
forever distant from its staple, and in this shaving of space
our lives are made flightless thought, his skein of threaded
gold-light passing through even the thickest juncture.


after "Le Verrou" by Jean Honoré Fragonard



* * * *


Stem of the Tree of Orestes


With a nose for small
powers and their logics
I once for a long time
sat several feet up
on the misery branch
near to the wood-crack
breaking point weighted
with the old ample love
owed my mother, long
dead, and our father,
dead too as well as for-
gotten, he who willed
his worn selection
of sumptuous oblivion
to me at the onset
of my full-grown life,
and thus to the future
I then thought to begin.

At that time you said
I was heavy with
sentiment, but how
could I otherwise than
notion-made be as the
heir to an ancient debt?
Ever since that blood-
stained day when I
was gently handled,
and bid withhold
my tears, for, I was told,
he is an old man
war-torn and blind but
for his helpless fingers
feeling beneath
a cascade of clean bed-
clothes for a useless pair
of reading glasses, as if
it was of logic born that
infirmity had proved him
already cold. And she,
our mother, persisted
for her lost passion
to ask nothing-
but vengeance-for which
there will be in your heart
no forgiveness.

If in my leafy retreat
I remain, white-faced
and ever work-a-day,
mouthing retarded lies
beside my container
of unemptied dutifulness
how could you possibly
know it? And even if
each approaching spring
you postpone your home-
coming anew I think
to give up for good, I know
you can no more return
to find me old in an obsolete
childhood than I, once you'd
left me in this cursed house,
could have kept hope to leave.



* * * *


Æolian Harp

for and after John Wilkinson


Ribboning dreams unspool in a discarded heap
of oppressive gravity, remember when life
was still compelling, your talents in truck
for fealty, the luxurious future at hand, pastoral
lack of capital in the vernal fervor couched;
"make something of yourself," for example a man
or a picture of archaic pride atop an old armoire,
"pull yourself up by your bootstraps," as did those
bargained away first sons whose whims were nursed
by sins far worse than sacrifice, remember when
you thought yourself less played upon by circumstance,
little by little by literal evidence you've come to be
replaced, the time it took to spin these words has
long since disappeared, befooled by work the reading
of which another dreamer will unspool, do take your place
in pushing back the clock, small perks won't allow
a stay of revelation, the fear of ignorance has become
the vested knowledge of stupidity, choice
the slow extinction of your faculty for longing,
and the place you would back to of an orbit unreal.