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Jacket 15 — December 2001   |   # 15  Contents   |   Homepage   |   Catalog   |

Ange Mlinko

Three poems

Arabian Nights

So the officers and trustees meet to discuss the fate of foreign adjuncts, and a cake-topped birthday van careers around town, looking for the next victim. Music travels farther in the cold, seducing students in gossipy wreaths toward the stage of their ultimate immolation. If the guard knows you by face, and his minions, plucked from the town’s obscurity, hover under your window in green uniforms, such that they are called green men (which they regard as an affront to their dignity), remember: they do not celebrate or even acknowledge that an individual inaugurates his or her own calendar.

Should you be called upon to give a recitation of your works, you will pace the campus memorizing, in a foreign language, what you’ve written for your keep. It is not your foreign language, it is theirs, and if they don’t get the music it is declared a non-poem, regardless of its actual content, i.e. it is night but the forest’s black keeps it an honest blue. When the announcer asks you what it’s about you lie: Love.

The songs we are most likely to hear on mixed tapes of western pop, played in cafes and tour buses, that is, “Hotel Maghreb,” “Maghreb Dreaming,” “Maghreb Girls” suggest to the orchidists, archivists, and oenologists of lexicons that your Maghreb is our California. Even the name “California” translated from Latin to Apache and back through the Scotch-Irish of the westward caravans means “land of the setting sun” where people tracing the continental shelf with maps of magnetic anomalies sell amulets in souks where magic spices are weighed in scales that go back in families to Crusaders or Pioneers. I think they too are people of the Book, growing, on the best soil in the world, wine grapes instead of food. Their siroccos are your Santa Anas, and like your Hell’s Angels, they have Blue Men roaming the dunes, the ocean’s imprint about the petit soccos, in the sluice of palms exploding from genetics, with aloe to soothe minor dermal wounds. And like your country California is mostly composed of youths: they have this feeling, festinating down the Alcatraz-Mogador corridor, that a choriamb is descending on them.

At the other end of the empire is a land of pyramids, obelisks, pentagons, and sphinxes like DIAC or FBI Building, visitable from the expressway but invisible as forcefields in airspace, from which you can see roads radiate then intersect to form eerie quincunxes. Men in parked cars like googlyeyes affixed to tunnels make a noctilucence in an infrared binoculars, and watch what you say in public: that girl there is writing in her notebook under hermetic MOTTOS CARVED IN PEDIMENTS, “Remove Strange Moles” “Affect a Natural High” “Manners Are Poetic.” Beyond the fertile delta of Federal Triangle a triage of voodoo and santería in the neighborhoods bordering nightclubs, by the blight, under the river, in library bathrooms on uppermost floors (where Ancient History, etc., goes), shadowy stalls or weapons in the stars, goddess Set roaming the porticoes — you sense it, beyond the diplomacies, holding your nose til the final couplet, barely granting me, Her envoy, another day


1) Only about 3 men meet to discuss anyone’s fate.
2) “The Birthday Van” is a 7-inch that flips to its b-side “The Hearse.”
3) OK, penultimate immolation.
4) It is about love.
5) Having never been to California, this is as much as I know, really.
6) All of this is true about DC.
7) Indestructible by crowbar, owlbar, sparrowbar, hawkbar.

The Men

Like that lion on the stamp of the
New York Public Library! Is it Astor,
Lenox and Tilden in composite? Like an ascot
blending with swept-back locks
away from the arch of the half-closed eye!
In the fact of a whole head in its halo of motto,
like a coin, is it the final pursuit of such men
to stock a library with rare books
on a marble avenue, with an exhibit
this go-round of “utopias”, an inevitable
speculation with the bums & the rich
brothers in desultoriness studying
Jefferson’s handwriting in a fair copy
of the Declaration of Independence?

Ice grips the steps of stopped hands.
Violin wood of the reading room,
violet snow in the window.

You said you loved a photocopied book
like a keeper of mysteries, like a visitor
to libraries, under the hieroglyph
of light rays

                   or the trompe l’oeil skylight
of perpetual sunset (or dawn?)
                                       It zipped
along the wool blanket with flashes
lighting up the dark. They gathered into
a tooth that nipped when I reached out
of a repetitive dream.
                             “Come to bed,” I said.
“No, why don’t you sit up with me awhile?
The mountebank insomnia has me.”

You called me to the window to see a man
hail a cab. Had a hand in the writing
of the Russian constitution.

        A gratuity,
and aren’t I a connoisseur?

Cloud-To-Cloud Correspondence

Mr. If-Then, you have
10 minutes
to make out with this painting.
Roman numerals
like “Aryballos in the Form of a Hedgehog”
round off.

What kind of day is it out there?

It’s “Concerto for Half a Piano”
and right half of the brain.

“Put suet in a dead Christmas tree, and draw the birds.”

But what is it supposed to be?

Many of us have discovered a kind or species of day
and lacked a registry:

“Today downgrades the Minotaur to Bullwinkle!”

or the sort of day actuaries interview you
about defenestrated busts.

All kinds of days. Unlike the tedium of the tyranny
I used to live under:
                                       “No twin dove
for you til grown up, we let you love.”

Later, when I want to be a great painting, I must ask
what shall I be of.

Photo of Ange Mlinko
Ange Mlinko is the author of Matinees (Zoland Books). She lives in New York City where she edits The Poetry Project Newsletter.

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