Lewis Turco


 

 

A PAGE OF SPIDERS
On “Spiders, Long Island, Maine,” a drawing by Elizabeth Burke.

The spiders seem to want to crawl away,
Out of the drawing with its printed notes
Onto my desk top where, perhaps, there’s prey

For them to draw into a net that floats.
But I am building this fleeting cage of letters
Out of the drawing with its printed notes --

I have no wish to be the prey in fetters,
Although I have no other choice, of course,
Except to build this floating cage of letters

To fend the spiders off until remorse
For the misprisions of my days is lost
In spinning filaments without recourse.

The price for living – an enormous cost,
A page of debts that cannot be repaid,
For the misprisions of our days are lost

In filaments of time gone retrograde. 
The spiders seem to want to crawl away --
A page of debts that cannot be repaid -- 
Onto my desk top where, of course, they’ll prey.





PAST SOUNDS OF SINGING
On “Lost,” a graphite drawing by Tony Lisa, and a remark by Rhina P. 
Espaillat: “…his poems are like singing from the cemetery.

When we stroll out by evening we are wary
Of our route. We would not like to hear 
The sounds of singing from the cemetery.

Although we know there is not much to fear,
We whistle past the churchyard lying there
On our route. We would not like to hear

The sounds of singing burdening the air,
Emerging from the boneyard on our course.
We whistle past the churchyard lying there --

We wish to hear no aria; even worse,
A chorus of old voices made of stones
Emerging from the boneyard on our course.

We care no whit for what the wind intones
As we go strolling through the evening shades,
No chorus of old voices made of stones

Should shadow us through streets or country glades
When we walk out at dark. We should be wary
As we go strolling through the evening shades
Past sounds of singing from the cemetery.





THAT FRONT DOOR

Dickinson means as much to me now as she ever did, maybe more. I 
keep coming back to knock on that front door. — Holland Cotter
in The New York Times, Sunday, May 16, 2010

When I was young I read the book
Her friends made of her verse —
They titled it and gussied it —
Made it prettier but worse.
I loved it anyway. Somehow.
Dickinson means as much to me now

As in those post-Victorian days
When all her readers felt
She was an Amherst character
Who made your gizzard melt.
She has as much New England lore
As she ever did, maybe more

Even with those scratching dashes
She punctuated with,
And all that dashing from line to line
Turning images to myth
To stem time raining from the clock —
I keep coming back to knock

Some sense from her and into me,
But all I do is blunder
Among the songs she made from light
And sang into the thunder
She caused to murmur, but not to pour
On that front door.





DEER CROSSING

We saw a doe today with fawns,
Not one, not two, but three of them
Looking to cross the road ahead, 
Looking to wind up cold and dead
Across the road and the neighbors' lawns,
That dear little doe with three sweet fawns.

We stopped our car and blew our horn
And held up a hand to an oncoming car
Which also stopped when he saw the deer--
Stopped quite dead as he drew near
And saw the fawns that had been born
Not long ago on a chill spring morn.

The summer sun stood high and near,
Simmered down where the four deer stood
Peering out of the underbrush,
Out of the foliage green and lush
Until they turned with the flick of an ear
And we watched the four of them disappear.

That’s what it’s like in this world of ours,
We fall from the womb to the mortal earth,
We rise and thrive, perhaps, to walk
Through bramble and underbrush, to stalk
Forest and meadow till everything flowers
And we cross the road to the end of hours.






YEARSEND
A Carol Sonnet

This year is almost at its bitter end;
The year is coming to its bitter end
Just beyond the midnight’s darkest bend.

It’s over with – there’s no use to pretend
It’s not. It’s over, no use to pretend
The year impending will not soon descend

And fall on us, for Chronus will upend
The next four seasons. We will surely spend
Them all beyond this darkest midnight’s bend.

We should be watchful, clear-eyed, not pretend –
Put on an act attempting to pretend
The year impending will not soon descend

To fall upon us past this midnight’s bend.
Our looming seasons clearly must descend.






EXTRACTS FROM THE LATTERDAY CHRONICLE 
Second Selection


#C12-0263-MAIN

Turberson was his name.
He stood at the corner
where one building became
a brick buried in the next.
He stood and waited for the cement
to crumble from between his fingers.


#D53-7291-MAIN

He may have moved his feet
while I stood looking at him
but if so I hardly noticed
and another thing
I couldn’t see him blink
but I know he did and I didn’t
know him at all
with that glass face
and that glass suit he wears.


J52-0853-SUB

The motor
talking to the hills
a burning coin
listening between the pines —
I have caught this tar snake’s tail
and I’m here tuning up
but there’s a big voice buried in a big stone
getting ready.


J52-0856-SUB

I saw the tunnel
swallow that tailpipe
silver worms in the headlights
and he lit up and sighed
and it had to be the radio that went out
like a moth
when we hit that solid
black tube.


J52-0857-SUB

Don’t look now
but we’re not being followed.


#H16-4010-SUB

Drink it.
It will cure anything
even the doctor with his black bag
filled with pills
and lyric poultices.
I cannot save you.
Drink.
You cannot save me.





STAGECRAFT
A Shakespearean tailgater bluesanelle

One man in his time plays many parts; 
He struts the stage and takes on many parts -- 
Most of them, of course, by fits and starts. 

He tries on first one mask and then another, 
He wears a mask and then he wears another: 
One man in his time plays many parts;

He tries on women, too, when he is young, 
Tries them on for size when he is young, 
Most of them, of course, by fits and starts. 

They try him on as well and for a change 
Because they want to see if he can change. 
He struts the stage and takes on many parts 

Before he knows who he might truly be 
And gets confused – who might he truly be? 
He tries on personae by fits and starts.

If she is lucky she’ll be satisfied 
With what he chooses to be satisfied 
When he struts the stage and tries on parts 
Till he finds one that suits his many parts.






CHAUCER’S COSMOLOGY
A Tailgater Bluesanelle

What makes this world to be so variable, 
So hard to fathom and so variable, 
Is that all womankind is quite unstable. 

When she says “yes,” can you be sure you know 
That’s what she means, or is the answer “no”? 
What makes this world to be so variable 

Is that a man may never quite be certain 
What lies behind a woman’s opaque curtain. 
What makes the race of womankind unstable? 

When she makes hay why must she horse around, 
For “yea” or “neigh” she often twists around 
And thusly makes this world quite variable. 

She wants this done…but no, she wants the other, 
Now she is “wife,” no, no, now she is “mother” -- 
Man finds a nightmare tethered in his stable. 

Oh, why does Nature make sex so confusing? 
How can one be agreeing when refusing, 
And why must womankind be so unstable? 
To make this world complex she’s very able. 


Copyright  ©  Lewis Turco 2013

 
Lewis Turco is a contributor to the recently-published Garnet Poems: An Anthology of Connecticut Poetry Since 1776. His most recent books, all published in 2012, are The Book of Forms: A Handbook of Poetics, Including Odd and Invented Forms, Revised and Expanded Fourth Edition; Wesli Court’s Epitaphs for the Poets, and his second book of critical essays, Dialects of the Tribe: Postmodern American Poets and Poetry.

Founder in 1962 of the Cleveland State University Poetry Center and, in 1968, of the Department of Creative Writing at S.U.N.Y. Oswego, Lewis Turco now lives in productive retirement in Dresden Mills, Maine.