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Brian Henry

Three poems

Clam of Reason

Salty epaulettes failures to signify,
the piano makes the same fucked-up noises
whichever corner you roll it into,
collects the same piles of books and paper.
The same dust.
                                What we need is a plan,
something to adhere to, like a rule, like
moisture, to avoid the pointless clutter.
Tidying the surfaces does not qualify
as a deep clean — the mites still aggravate
our sinuses, the stubs still gather
the stories of our days: how much light
and heat, where we were, were not, what food,
what broke, what we splurged on, could afford,
whom called, what vices, whom ignored.
Shredding them will erase us from us
— no journal to finger by, certainly no memory
— the songs we sang for each other:
though unpolished and unremembered,
the fact of them, the act and gesture of them,
are all that will remain after everything else
is swept up, removed and discarded, or stored.

Route 25, Plymouth-Wentworth, NH

Perfidy on the outskirts, this casual sniping
little more than
                                  breakfast at noon,
breakfast at midnight, breakfast
of what one released.
The diner’s bulge — vinyl growth
on its ‘50s metal core — signals new owner.

That funeral procession last November
reminded the remaining to cherish
their waistlines while they’re there.
Carbs, fats, saturated fats, vitamin D.
Proportion, not portions, the issue
of the hour.
                          That and the passion.

The heron rejects the river,
we reject the heron, fish
bottles out, test each rock
with our asses, motorcyclical
in design, and placate our craving
for landscape for the next 12 miles
where every spot is out-
skirt, before everything just stops —

an exercise in something.
Ruins? Perspective? Oxidation?
Enriched by what remote
has brought us, we beckon,
begging to be enhanced.
All that we see gives in. We, grown.
Oxygen entranced, a different pollen.
Every thing is more open out here.

Sidewalk Cachet

A subtle maneuver and I am in
your vicinity, never mind
the nose-sweat, the dual exhaust.
Am so taut could snap any minute.
The walk is the walk to en-
trance, scintillate the shock
way past the chuffaluff.
Destroyers abut, abound,
the postal worker’s latex,
the mysterious van. Everyone
abuzz about the bilby stamp,
the latest stomach virus.
A song is in the process
of being heard, the words
muffled by the words in
the process of being spoken,
the vehicular traffic, the one-
seater plane droning toward
the sun. The music slivers
through. Roped off from
the sidewalk while sitting on
the sidewalk, you scan the menu.
A man takes your order.
The funnel breaks down,
every assertion about what
constitutes a corridor falls
into facts. Facts do not count
here. What counts is how
I have arranged this, arranged
you. This scene.

Brian Henry has published three books of poetry — Astronaut (Arc,
2000/ Carnegie Mellon,2002), American Incident (Salt, 2002), and Graft (Arc/ New
Issues, 2003). His fourth book, Quarantine, won the 2003 Alice Fay di Castagnola Award from the Poetry Society of America. He recently contributed an essay on John Forbes to Imagining Australia (Harvard, 2004).

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