Quidnunc gifts: I


I continue to read the Quidnunc by Robert F. Bartley (see the Quidnunc post). His diction can sometimes be obscure and he sometimes uses words I have never heard before. I look them up fully expecting that they do not exist, but find that they, in fact, are quite legitimate words.

The other day I looked up the word catamenia (used in a prosaic way in the book) on the Merriam-Webster website, which asks  readers to comment on where they found the word. “What made you want to look up catamenia? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).” Wendy DeGeorgia Gravert commented that she found it in a C.D. Wright poem, “Floating Trees.” It was imperative at that point that I look up the poem. 

So, Robert F. Bartley– the curmudgeon who lived next door to us some 50 years ago in Toledo, Ohio– has brought me, five decades later, to this wonderfully provocative poem.

The world stitches the disparate together in magical and surprising ways.

“Floating Trees” by C.D. Wright

a bed is left open to a mirror
a mirror gazes long and hard at a bedxxx

light fingers the house with its own acousticsxxx

one of them writes this down
one has paperxxx

bed of swollen creeks and theories and coils
bed of eyes and leaky pensxxx

much of the night the air touches arms
arms extend themselves to airxxx

their torsos turning toward a roll
of sound: thunderxxx

night of coon scat and vandalized headstones
night of deep kisses and catameniaxxx

his face by this light: saurian
hers: ash like the tissue of a hornets’ nestxxx

one scans the aisle of firs
the faint blue line of them
one looks out: sans serifxxx

“Didn’t I hear you tell them you were born
on a train”

what begins with a sough and ends with a groan
groan in which the tongue’s true color is revealedxx

the comb’s sough and the denim’s undeniable rub
the chair’s stripped back and muddied rungxxx

color of stone soup and garden gloves
color of meal and treacle and sphagnumxxx

hangers clinging to their coat
a soft white bulb to its stringxx

the footprints inside us
iterate the footprints outsidexxx

the scratched words return to their sleevesxxx

the dresses of monday through friday
swallow the long hips of weekendsxxx

a face is studied like a key
for the mystery of what it once openedxxx

“I didn’t mean to wake you
angel brains”xxx

ink of eyes and veins and phonemes
the ink completes the feelingxxx

a mirror silently facing a door
door with no lock no lockxxx

the room he brings into you
the room befalls youxxx

like the fir trees he trues her
she nears him like the firsxxx

if one vanishes one stays
if one stays the other will or will not vanishxx

otherwise my beautiful green fly
otherwise not a leaf stirs


C. D. Wright, “Floating Trees” from Steal Away: New and Selected Poems. Copyright © 2002 by C. D. Wright.


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