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Laure-Anne Bosselaar: CaliforniaPoets Part 3, Four Poems

Laure-Anne Bosselaar

June 25th, 2021

California Poets: Part III

Laure-Anne Bosselaar

Four Poems

Author’s Note: All poems have previously appeared in These Many Rooms (Four Way Books) I Forget to Listen to the silence after the rain — or to that particular silence, like a held breath, when the wind dies. And to the silence after a slammed door. Or a telephone’s last unanswered ring. I forget to listen to you — and to the silence in you, friend. I make such noise, such noise, that I don’t hear the silence in you.

The Night Garden Because everything you learned from the stained glass windows you knelt under still remains thorned & stained & torn, & all the teachings you were expected to believe still leave you dis- believing & you wish this were not so, & because one sparrow’s chirp can pour gratitude into you like a drought- dazzling rain, & you’d much rather kneel for that — & you do, there’s something appeased in the way you get up again & brush the dirt from your knees — that modest dirt that belongs to no one & is yours so entirely in this small lot — hedged, hidden, with its offerings of fruit & shade & song. So that later, when evening brumes embrace all you just praised, you slip back into the night garden to be blessed that way too.

Elegy on My Drive Home for Larry Levis When it rains on Las Positas Road, the trunk of a eucalyptus there turns blue — with a few blood-red streaks — but mostly blue: a bright hard cobalt, & it just stands there, bleeding that blue, among the other eucalyptus in their safe camouflage of beige & brown — & I remember something Larry wrote about Caravaggio, how he painted his own face in the decapitated head of Goliath, & how Larry wanted to go up to it & close both eyelids because they were still half-open & it seemed a little obscene to leave them like that. I planted a willow in a garden in Belgium when Larry died. It grew by blue-painted shutters. I wanted that tree to keep weeping there after I left for America again — America who had lost Larry too — & I thought about that, & about his two trees, lost somewhere in Utah: the acer negundo, & the other one whose name he could never remember. So that now, when I drive home I think of those trees: the acer negundo, the other one, & my willow. Brother limitation races beside me like a shadow too, Larry, so that now, when it rains, I take another way home, or look away from the Las Positas eucalyptus standing there soaked & so blue it seems a little obscene to leave it like that.

While There is Still Time let me waste it, take it outside & do nothing but sit with it under the old vine’s nave & its chaotic choir of sparrows. It’s one of those days when nothing gets done, my head a constant whinge of worries. But a breeze drifts in from the East & inside it the distant peal of church bells then — like a vague voice from afar — a line from Apollinaire: You’re tired, finally, of this ancient world. À la fin tu es las de ce monde ancien. I had forgotten it for so long & here — six thousand miles away from Paris six thousand miles from a room in Antwerp where I memorized Zone by heart — I hear myself say it aloud to a dusty congregation of sparrows. Some poems will never leave me — they are my other mother tongue — their scansion the beat & in my throat & wrists. But these sparrows: how easily they come & go from gnarled darknesses into bright noon light. How, if there is no water, they’ll bathe in dirt. I watched a woman once, on a subway platform, grab her screaming child’s wrist, twist it, & shake her, pointing to a cat-sized rat chewing at something between the rails: Stop it or I’ll throw you to that rat. That woman. ¬She seemed so defeated, so beat. That child. Her terror as she wrapped herself around her mother’s legs: I stop, mama, I stop. I recognized that terror — my whole body a gasp: it was a station of my childhood, there, not three feet away, as the train screeched out of the tunnel. I didn’t board it. Joined the crowd toward the EXIT & its urban dispersal, all of us strangers, worn, torn, mute, blinded by New York’s noon, its chaos & roar — brief companions in a scattering flock. The sparrows haven’t stopped their commute & — again — it’s Apollinaire I remember: You almost died of sorrow then, A Lazarus bewildered by light & as the birds bathe in their fonts of dust & sun, another line: Un instant voile tout de son ardente cendre An instant veils everything with its ardent ash but can’t remember what came before that line. It doesn’t matter. There’s such quiet unimportance here, my memory so generous, untangling lines & languages—as I sit by a vine, wasting time & taking my time to do it.

Author Bio:

Laure-Anne Bosselaar is the author of The Hour Between Dog and Wolf, Small Gods of Grief, and A New Hunger, an ALA Notable Book. She is the winner of the 2001 Isabella Gardner Prize for Poetry. Her poetry was featured on Poetry Daily, The Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day, Garrison Keillor’s “A Writer’s Almanac,” and in Orion, Georgia Review, Ploughshares, and Harvard Review. The editor of four anthologies and a Pushcart Prize recipient, she has taught at Sarah Lawrence College and UCSB. Currently, she teaches at the Low Residency MFA in Creative Writing Program of Pine Manor College in Boston.


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