“Marking Time” and Other Poems

Karen Klein

Marking Time
Words for wanting
contain ‘L’:
To make the sound
your tongue touches
the top of your palette
leaving a little space beneath
for moisture
to pool
like the still pools
of water
in hollow places
after rain.
“Hair is like a fingerprint”
she snipped during cut to curl
when I complained my left side
curls, my right side doesn’t.

Imagine fingerprint whorls
in hair patterns and toeprints,
our print-filled bodies complex
as Tibetan mandalas, Aboriginal dream paintings.

At first glance, a bird, then I saw a jaw, teeth, bones of hip, spine, no flesh or fur,
only a skeleton lodged in fallen leaves in the wilder verge of my land.
What brought this small animal there for final rest?
a hunter? a coyote?
or just wild seeking wild?
“a raid on the inarticulate”
knows when we are in extreme
when we are overwhelmed by
when we are brought to our knees by
we don’t use words.
Our body utters guttural
howls its responses.

canes and
to shape sounds into
sentences to
grab authentic and
know our words always
one remove from
anguished reality
a parapalegic
who walks
a corpse
who weeps.

-title taken from T.S. Eliot, East Coker, Four Quartets

Wild Swans at Waquoit
Yeats saw them a century ago
at Coole near Connemara.
Their sudden, wheeling flight
stirs him to sadness—all had changed
since his first count of them,
years replete with personal grief
and political tumult.
I see them
at Sage Lot Pond, an inlet of the Bay.
Their serene beauty slumbers on the water,
their oval backs glisten ivory,
sun on their silky surface.

Walking between Waquoit Bay
and Vineyard Sound, a watery world
on both sides, my path bounded by
bayberry, beach plum, juniper, cedar,
I breathe in a bit of paradise.

Glaciers melt
in the far north. The undiminished force
of water cascades into rising oceans,
the water where wild swans sleep
no longer an invitation,
but a threat.
Cloud cover drains the landscape
of color. Fewer swans yesterday
at Sage Lot Pond. Those there
no longer in repose. Their necks
elongated periscopes
strain to see what’s coming.

On our other coast, my cousin,
age ninety-seven, is dying.
A refugee from Nazi Storm Troopers,
he sees his life spiral back with televised
images of torchlit parades
that illumine faces shining
with old hatred
and hears the chant “Jews will not
replace us.”

Sage Lot Pond empty today,
its opaque surface undisturbed.
From nowhere, a murmuration
of dark birds explodes into the open sky,
glides on gusts, rides in waves
of panic and purpose, then settles
into a stand of juniper and cedar,
only to lift again, a massive
funnel of tree swallows that widens
into a ceaselessly moving circle
and disappears.

Journal: Bilbao
to walk on Santiago Calatrava’s bridge
is to walk on a wish
to be free of rectangles
is to honor the architect’s desire
to be a curve
suspended in space
it’s a memory of a swing
the seat pulled way back
in a strong arc
the moment the boy readies
then stretches his legs way out
to pump
the excitement of reaching

When the ice finally breaks
all the images of restraint give way
surely the Norse warriors     winter-trapped
in their tribal enemies’ mead hall
feel desire’s fire
for their dragon-prowed ship
move their feet apart     balance’s
stance     readies for the swell
the water builds its sullen resistance
eyes narrow     shoulders and legs become
the rhythm of the oars
Their scop, Beowulf’s shaper, nailed it
foamy-necked floater most like a flier
the double kenning     one for boat
the other bird
both the same     move through water and air
without wings
  with wings
both escape earth
while fire unconquerable
consumes the mind in desire’s flame
for the watery road to nowhere
and everywhere
-the italicized line taken from Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf
l’heure bleu
the blue hour
cinq a sept

his hand on her stocking
stroking silk
the cat in the corner
yawns, stretches
accepts the caress

a strap falling
the teasing curve
of her bare shoulder
waiting for the pressure
of fingers

heat lightning
the dampness
along her hairline

a gown falling
the smell of satin

-from the Prometheus Dance production Desiderare
“ ….she’s a brick house”
a square, brick building
next to an empty lot
an object surrounded by nothing
like a fragile present
to be put in a special box
and packed with styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap
so it won’t break
you were my styrofoam peanuts
my bubble wrap
nothing around
my body
night music
empty bed blues
solo sax
-title taken from a song by The Commodores
Karen Klein, a retired faculty member from Brandeis University, is now in her second career as a dancer/poet. Founder of teXtmoVes a poetry/dance collaborative, she and her group perform in libraries, art galleries, and concert halls. Her poetry has been published in print magazines, in on-line journals, in newspapers and read on radio programs. She is a member of Steeple Street Poets and is working on a book combining various poetic forms and drawings.