Four Poems by Oliver Rice.
PASSAGES OF THE VENUS DE MILO
From Pont Neuf and Sacre-Coeur,
through the Tuileries to the towering Louvre,
street smart from Proust and the gargoyles,
to stand sensate
poised in the celebrity, the antiquity,
the pagan candor,
the mutilated reticence
of what she is or might be.
A dove calling
that afternoon in the spring of 1820
he squatted beside his furrow,
bearded, who may have been to sea,
to inspect the protruding rock,
to scrape out the broken carnality,
the sudden legendry,
of what she was or might be.
Two centuries before Saint Paul,
in a valley of figs, of trembling poplars,
kebabs cooked any noontime of Antioch
in the street of Agesander the maker,
confronting the behavior of stone,
this woman of ephemeral women
humming in familial rooms,
emerging from the myths,
from the ur-brain,
from the ardor
of what she was or might be.
SHE STOPS BRIEFLY IN MARSEILLE
At a table on the Rue au Panier
on a day that will not come again,
anywhere in her hunger of years,
in a village life,
a convent, a café, a Chinese life,
anywhere in her turning life,
the widow Haldane,
thinking they would have a word for stranger
takes note of an exhibit at the Musee Cantini.
Ah, she says,
oils and watercolors of Edward Hopper,
ah, that hidden Manhattan,
the stark solitary people.
Yesterday, she says,
idling down Canebiere toward the harbor,
the barges, the islands,
yesterday begins again in Truro,
in Gloucester and Ogunquit,
lobster buoys on the beach,
great poplars about the farmhouse,
the hermit thrush singing on Batavia Mountain,
in the flat above the Piazza Santa Cecelia,
the British museum,
where they have lives,
in a town without despicable occupations,
in a street named for a philosopher.
Where in her absence
the work of belonging goes on.
One despairs of pure possibility, she says,
pausing in the Jardin des Vestiges.
One the defector,
an apparition without locale.
Prodigal, prodigal everywhere.
Up the steps to Notre-Dame de la Garde
she climbs in accidental ardor
for a plane to an earnest place,
palms, a terrace, the sea,
for an English, an Israeli, a Peruvian breakfast,
a stillness in the carob trees of Algiers,
the almond trees of Lisbon,
the rowan trees of Moscow,
in an old house in Windsor Locks.
THE SKY, THE SQUARE,
AN AUTOMATIC CAMERA
Here is ample news of civilization.
It is a locale of the masses.
How undulating, how diverse is the nooncrowd,
all sociology, all urbanity,
God-botherers up from the subway.
Wastemakers down from the suites.
girls from less fashionable neighborhods.
How continuing is the green space,
are the facades, ogees, pilasters,
signs left by the dead.
Is it history or allegory
coming out of the side streets,
Oh, hear the pitiless song.
Time has no caution, they seem to say,
who from their predicaments watch the hour.
There is a right of forgiveness, they seem to say,
who go disguised as useful persons,
as free thinkers,
as misfits or sublimated lovers.
Such a script!
The stimuli loose among the occupations.
The restless probabilities awaiting.
The credulities loitering at the crosswalks,
in the doorways, on the highrise balconies.
WHY ALL ART ASPIRES
TO THE CONDITION OF MUSIC
Seize it off the air.
Disconcert it back along its tremors
through sounding belly, tube,
into all escaping commotion,
all shrewd flaring semblance,
all huge springing carnal hypothesis,
all nostalgia of God.
Oliver Rice has received the Theodore Roethke Prize and twice been nominated for a Pushcart Prize.His poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies in the United States, as well as in Canada, England, Austria, Turkey, and India. His book of poems, On Consenting to Be a Man, has been introduced by Cyberwit, a diversified publishing house in the cultural capital Allahabad, India, and is available on Amazon.
Comments? Tell us!
Back to Offcourse home page