Three Poems
Julia the Astonishing,

Lines on meeting Ms. Butterfly Hill

Were you not tempted to drift up into that truss-barn’s loft

Where you spoke at Grailville,

Catch your balance among the white-washed joists,

Twist away from the last handhold,

Frighten them just a little

With a flash of hip half bark already,

A shoe slipping off to show your toes were a claw of roots?

To perch on one of those strong timbers,

To kick your feet off topic, over the beam,

The “divine mess” of those below,

Then leave and just leave the rich timbre of your voice,

An echo—I thought that for you—and be transported from
     tree to tree.

This came when you said you were the most cynical of

I knew a challenge when I heard one,

How hard it was to say that, the people part.

And that’s when I knew you really missed it,

The column, the light straight up smarting your eyes,

How to calm it raking its needles in your palms,

That you needed a consolation,

Something almost too green, perhaps,

For the way you force yourself down among us.

It was October and Ohio and I hurried from the barn to the
     old windrows,

Where canebrakes that fenced the pastures

Had gone to seed and become their groves,

To where I knew they grow (regarded as a “messy tree” by

Almost banished

To find you a hedge apple,

To gift its vague orange smell,

What never looks ripe,

Like the inside of our heads too much—

To hand back Adamo observa a fruit that can’t be bitten,

What should have been planted in Paradise had the maker of
     the mess

Not known already thére wóuld bé hére.


The obelisks preen to a radiance that would please a pharaoh
     as much as them beneath them.

The urn crowns smolder with low and crawling drapes.

Curtain calls would not be out of place here for the theater of
     every kind of mourning maid—

The bared breast muse penning a sonnet,

The little Duse weeping with her marble eyes a soft coal

The lily bearers holding their bouquets by the sheaves,

Those Fates (oh, they’re sorry now) throwing out their arms
     (some hammered off at the elbows)

Reaching for, stealing the show from all these names.

The only drama is mine making crisping sounds with my

In the burned July grass and clover leaves,

Circling that humility they had then too amid conceit,

Two lambs trotted out of a bible story to curl in a wreath,

Loyal to a children’s grave,

Lamarckian and remarkably so,

Worn down to poor soapstone copies of themselves in the
     mild, caustic vandalism of rain and me,

To two white, like rubber things

I should have to shepherd without the dignity of my own
The awe of leaving charred prints back to the service road.

One should be tied to my bumper.

One day one should be laid on me

Just to get an edge too weak to carve anything real or sad.

—Spring Grove Cemetery, July 2012

The Help King

His highness splashes through a spit of full moon lying on
     the water,

The one coin he mints, allows to rise and fall.

The starch folds of his ruff,

The laces from his sleeves chirr in the shore breeze like dog
     day flies.

The blue shines in the tailings of the aquarium glass mine
     that ballast the jetties.

The swan-prow dips under the Bridge of Sighs carved in
     garden scale

As he pedals homeward for the grotto

Where he pens his boat,

Navigating by the cold cave winds it exhales across the gulf.

His hand free of the tiller drops pilled bread for the dolphins
     that outlie his progress.

He hears the homework sighs now—burned off in desk lamps

So hot to touch no one can turn them off—

The sift of erasures brushed to the floor,

A tear blister the math,

Raising it to the power of the fifth Beatle.

Earlier this year, JAMES REIDEL published new translations of two novels by Franz Werfel from Godine, The Forty Days of Musa Dagh and Pale Blue Ink in a Lady’s Hand. He is currently submitting a new book of poems for publication. In January, he will be the poet-in-residence at the James Merrill House in Stonington, Conn.