Dale Champlin, Bird Paper Doll 7, Collage, 2021
First I knot & drop my swing from the phantom
limb & mount & pump, pump higher & pump
over the top & over again because gravity,
mark my word, is a property of the grave.
A crescent moon rocks & trickles along
piping perfect notes down to the lake’s
ripple wraiths rising as if to evaporate.
Four phantoms perch on their limb.
It has fallen asleep. They pass
a popcorn back & forth among them & from realm
to realm. They prickle & fidget a bit. They blend.
Never frequently enough, a gifted amateur
takes a day off to set up easel & oils. Sky starts, horizontal
shades & gradations; next a few clouds to coalesce & disperse.
The clouds’ signs paraphrase “wet paint” in passing
(meaninglessly to Skeezix the shelter dog– today’s first admission–
whose amputated woman, confused at home in a leafy dream,
stirs both her stumps, their hundred and twenty rings).
Review by Maura High
This poem asks the reader to read intuitively, to feel rather than understand (at first and maybe even after many readings). But the music (meter, melody) and images are compelling, the vignettes and tableau at times repellent (“amputated … stumps”), at times winsome (the lake scene, the birds, the painting), even mysterious. I trust this voice.