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   Jacket 34 — October 2007        link Jacket 34 Contents page        link Jacket Homepage

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Stephanie Bolster

Six poems:

Portrait of Alice With Elvis
Train Windows
Syringa, Or, A Poem by John Ashbery
Avenue Marcil
The Life of The Mind (Night)

This piece is about 5 printed pages long.
It is copyright © Stephanie Bolster and Jacket magazine 2007.

Portrait of Alice With Elvis

Queen and King, they rule side by side
in golden thrones above the clouds.
Her giggle and wide eyes remind him
of his first young wife, and his twang
never ceases to thrill her, so different
from the prim accents of men she’s known.

She sings for him, “Hound Dog”
and “Heartbreak Hotel,” and he turns
the Mock Turtle’s song of beautiful soup
campier with each performance, hip-twists
till her eyes stream and she melts with laughter.

Sometimes they leave their airy realm
to share a strawberry shake at Burger King
in Memphis, visit the Tate Gallery in London
to solemnly ponder the Lady of Shalott
alone and adrift in her rowboat.

In rare arguments over fame, he cites
the Churches of Elvis, the Vegas tributes,
while she mentions the Alice shop in Oxford,
the Alice ride at Disneyland. He says more books
have been written about him, but she insists hers
are of higher calibre, her words are quoted
much more often than his. He calls up wax figures,
she teapots and tarot cards. Both delight
in their limited edition collector’s plates.

For dinner they fry chicken, make tea and scones,
tarts filled with peanut butter.
He runs her a lavender bubble bath,
washes her hair, greases his own.

She lays her head against his chest
during late night TV, murmurs of the man
who gave her fame, and he of the woman for whom
he won his. She wants to sway
to the beat of his heart in her ear, slow
as “Are You Lonesome Tonight.” In sleep
their tear-blotched faces could be anyone’s.

Train Windows

The first train came to me
like this: unstoppable force.
I stood aside at Fredericton Junction
and let the speed and flare approach.
Wind flailed my hair, the gathered dark

dispersed. I found my room
of pull-out bed and pull-up blind.
A solitude so rare, uncracked, I
couldn’t sleep. Morning: I tugged

the shade and empty ponds appeared.
We were that close to something;
the surface still rippled.
We were late for Montréal, New York,

for the years that would come, were gone,
were here. Years of blurred views through
windows. The engine approached,
I was alone, I held my breath

and didn’t let it out, and haven’t.

Syringa, Or, A Poem by John Ashbery

Haven’t read it. Maybe a thrush in it;
its true nature (a kind of bush,
likely densely floral, likely thickly
twisted in its limbs) a mystery.
We might know it by another name.
The poem’s apparently one of his finest.
A squirrel sits nearby, darting under
when we approach. Time passes
but more slowly. No one comes
to say get a move on, I haven’t got
all day or take off your coat and stay awhile.
A May quality, flourishing or incipient,
with ice cream on the side. Water close
but not right here. That bird swelling to song–
no dress rehearsal. There are so many
better things but none as good as this.

Avenue Marcil

A year ago the lilies sagged
in that plot across the street,
the space I claimed by seeing.
The cosmos rose. The street
ours because we paid the rent,
because we overlooked the street
from our balcon, no, oversaw.
This was the world, the street
green beyond the dangled leaves
of Chinese elm, the street
gold, opening as each leaf fell
and turned the edges of the street
to auburn runnels. It was lovely,
by which I mean we loved the street
we lived on, to which our letters
were addressed. The street
we turned onto, coming home,
and still we pass that street
sometimes, our train so swift
the elms make a tunnel of the street,
a wonder. Though dirtier than we recall,
crammed with cars, garbage, a street
without a space between the buildings
so one flame could take the street
like that and it would flare up
as it does now in the mind, my little street.


When they first put a cow in a zoo in Ireland.
When the common cat.
When a giraffe gave birth easily in a suburb.

The dog-star.
Backyard squirrel.

Birds we do not know the names of.

Kids point to her jaw, chewing, and ask.
Kids from flats.

Yesterday they came, finches or warblers, their breasts purplish as new growth then gone.

The Life of The Mind (Night)

Yes, the Tereus outstreams fate.

This might be the Nile or another mouth.

We gather on the deck between above and under.

All the undetected constellations.

The steamer forges.

Blue goes the owl and the ticking bats.

Churning where the river meets the sea.

The votive dragon, phoenix stitched of silk and not of fire on the water.

The water locomotive.

And the dog star and the Isle of Dogs.

And heaven upon the waters.

Stephanie Bolster

Stephanie Bolster

Stephanie Bolster’s first book, White Stone: The Alice Poems, won the Governor General’s Award and the Gerald Lampert Award and appears in French with Les Éditions du Noroît translated by Daniel Canty. She has also published Two Bowls of Milk, which won the Archibald Lampman Award and was shortlisted for the Trillium Award, and Pavilion. Bolster edited The Ishtar Gate: Last and Selected Poems by the late Ottawa poet Diana Brebner and is guest editor for the inaugural The Best Canadian Poetry in English 2007 anthology. She teaches creative writing at Concordia University in Montréal.

Acknowledgments: “Portrait of Alice With Elvis” From White Stone: The Alice Poems (Véhicule Press, 1998). “Train Windows”. From Pavilion (McClelland & Stewart, 2002). “Syringa, Or, A Poem By John Ashbery”. From poetry pamphlet Past the Roman Arena and the Cedar of Lebanon (Delirium Press, 2006). “Avenue Marcil” Previously printed in Event (Volume 34, Number 3)

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