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Presenting the winner of Boston Review’s Second Annual Poetry Contest: Stephanie Strickland

This poem is also available as hypertext

The Ballad of Sand and Harry Soot

0

Sand was a gourd fanatic
and she played
                  a glass
          marimba.

          1

          Harry Soot loved to listen.

0

When Sand shook,
          a green ribbon of rainsound
rose and fell in the air,

          and when she let her mallet
fall, the palest of violets, a screen of violet
          silver unscrolled.

          1

          Soot ground his keys
               in his pocket,
defacing his MetroCard.

0

Should Sand sing,

          1

          Harry felt himself leaning over a piano
               loosening his tie. As he reached out
          his hand, it was as if the inside of seventeen
          stretched balloons expanded past ivory,
          past gray, past transparence. A single spot,
          hung from the chrome scaffolding, bore
               down
          on the hoof of his nail.

0

Sand had a wardrobe
made of twirlies.

          1

          Harry Soot
          tried to find a center. Beneath or beyond.
          A point to yield or resist.
          Liquefaction of furbelows.
          Buglebead ballast. Contour cups
                of constructed silk.
          A skein that flung itself into a cusp of droplets.

1

Harry Soot was a handsome man,
woody and gaunt.
A blue-eyed boy.

          0

          Sand well Sand was hard to say.
          Some saw horns. Some saw
               slidebars. All
          saw pointers
               but acknowledged them diversions.
          A dragon, perhaps.

                              Or a dragon
               meditation?

0

Sand panned speed. Languid was she. Oh
          seeming fast, fine foil for
de…lay, lo, slow. Some slipp…age, she…

          1

          He, Harry, hurried, harried host.

0

Sand’s similarity to scarabs?
Or a rosa dolorosa, every petal
thorned? Or swallows up close.
"The tail is forked and as elegant
as a trout’s, but more attenuated,
just short of baroque," says the
naturist. I quote.

          1

          Harry succinct long gone
          to the lake with his tackle
          looking for lily berries,
          looking for blue pearls. Water
          holds his eyes. A silver weir.

0

Sand incessantly beckoning. Sandpipers
scurry to erase the loss of their faint
print at the foaming margin.

          1

          Watch Harry put a toe in.

1

Harry Soot,
unclear, of course, about fire.
          How original, originating,
it really was–
          Forests aflame. Resinous clubs.
In the dark paneled reading room,
a green shade.

          0

          Sand, a cat’s cradle fan and economic.
          Her shave and a haircut, fifteen cents;
          her Oceania nodes of knot
               remembered navigation;
          her numerous fingers interlaced
          with gloves–made of holes–slipped
          successfully over;
               her mediumistic con
          in the dark apparatus, all one, all
          the same nano-rope. This point
          escaped Harry. Harry preferred Ouija
          wavering words, reassured
          by Ouija jerk.

1

Harry is no fool. Harry Soot is shrewd.
Harry has allergies and moods.
Harry lies–he can’t
                         help it.
Harry has structure–genes and grammar.
Harry is a detective, but he can’t find
          an answer. Harry is violent
and violently quiet;

          01000011

          Sand is sand.

0

Sand insinuated herself. ZaumZoom in,
she has gone ahead. ZoomTzim out,
     she is not behind. To hear,
in her gourd, her mallet-fall, a relation to
     emptiness, finest gauze, so finely
          woven even the strands
               appear to disappear.

          1

          Harry Soot believes he is watching.
          Harry thinks he is in Times Square.
          He is. She is not.

0

Twirly languid blue-eyed blue pearls clearly not
          Sand.
Down on the fourth harmonic she simply singly
          for a second
stood, so symmetric, second subsequent swiftly
               sliding side-
riding slamjamming shivering switching–

          1

          Soot calls it "searching."

0

Sand sings Nessun dorma long summer
afternoons in the music room. Heavy red
curtains, gilded chairs, portraits of dead
children. Sand in a window seat
looking out on roses;

          1

          Harry Soot in a seersucker suit
          at the far door, arms
          raised in triumph:
          his play, his score.

0

Sand seeks the scent
               of lemon viburnum,
murmuring purple
of the ringneck doves’ soft
gurgle as they walk on the wall
and their syllables spill over and
               fall
          down a column
          of slowness.
Midnight blue of Krishna’s

          1

          shoes. Harry finishes up.

0

Sometimes Sand doesn’t come. Fatally
     blocked.
Splurt of sign signage red/blue blood
on the grisly snow. Minutes of arc off.

          1

          Harry swims in adrenalin.

0

Sand might be getting restless.
How does Sand feel about insects
as companions? Does she take
her cue from the alkaloid plants?
What seems to Soot revenge may
seem to her survival. Or
is she incapable of refusal?

          1

          Soot loves Sand. Every tree,
          every wall, a target inscription, pierced
          by Tell’s weapon. Turn me on,
          the swooshing sound Soot hears Sand
          murmur.

0

Hold me down, Sand prays, to dusk &
musk, purple black sheathed with frost,
the Concord grape of Krishna’s shoes
           with golden tips and toes
and soles. The stars are variable sprays,
                golden geometric rays
of twisted silk. Crimson lining unfolding.
Achtung! Loose lips. Beware.

          1

          Here comes Soot.
0
 
Sand resounds as long as a whale song
passed along and around the waters
of the world. Like a motherchild pod, she/they
both threatened and succored by the
coasts. Alone in the bay, rolling over and
back beneath the moon, as

          1

          Harry and his cohort heave
          into view, traveling in a pack,
          driving them aground.

0

A housedress of dotted Swiss with a lace
collar. A curling iron, to refresh
marcelled hair. Account books with black,
placeholder ribbons. Linoleum
made to look like a brick floor. Sand
could be retro.

          1

          Soot in tow.

0

Sand’s relation to dreams bears
repeating. Was it mentioned?

          1

          Not necessarily Harry’s.

0

As albino cave bats who let go
of coloration, but develop keener
sensors, Sand.

          1

          Soot, who seeks to catch a falling star
          in the monitoring
          cave, evolves into colorblind.

1

Harry Soot is that kind of guy. Despite
his lust for lime, despite a savvy sense
of what goes down around such light, Harry
Soot is attached to his memory lines,
crow’s feet crinkle, scar arroyos, worry
furrows, wry sag, time written in skin,
in bone, in blood. Chemical peels do not
appeal to him. Nor implant chips (wait until
he gets sick!).

          01010011

          Sand’s unbelievable memory
          learned, of course,
          not lived.
0

Biocompatible glass?
               Sand looks askance.
Sand an infinite receiver–
infinitely flexible. Beyond
               flex in fact, an infinite
deceiver: Proteus at home.

          1

          Siren! Circe! screams Soot.

0

Golda called Moshe that Arab.
Golda, schoolteacher, thought
words
          warded off.
Is Golda Sand?
 
          1

          Is Moshe Soot?
          Is Jerusalem a mass of human names…

0

Is Sand (a wafer/chip good as) Gold?

          1

          Is Soot…meat?

0

Sand’s never the sameness fleeter than
anything Soot could get a hand, a handle,
on. Flickery swift. And yet. One finger
brings her crashing down. Hump Dump.

          1

          Together again–so fast it made Soot
          swoon. An arcade thrill. Cheaper than
          medical or bootleg. Purer, too, potent
          and hygienic. Claustrophobic–no
          establishing shot. Unusually
          cold–most color blocked her light.

1

Harry Soot from time to time in the market for swoon.
          Perhaps ever more often. In his dream,
just a year or two ago, he remembered edge, it being
          summoned. People who forget the art
of navigation come to believe the island has sunken;

          0

          Sand’s smile at this juncture, Mona Lisan.

1

Harry Soot’s grandmama, Muck Raker Ida Tar….
What a falling off there.

          111111111

          Sand’s gramp, grep, Pythagoras.
               She done him proud. It sims.

1

Tangy Soot. Tang-I-Bull Soot.

          0

     Trua-vir Sand. Liv-a-Tru Sand.
     Physics: The Movie. R.I.P.,
     crown assays in a bathtub,
     or Galileo trekking to the far side
     of the valley to touch that blue
     boulder on the ridge.
     And would this prove he saw
     mountains on the moon in any case,
     Sand asks.


0
Sand, as I said, a marimba player;

          1

     Oozy Soot, Uzi Soot, born to swim,
     born to dance, to paint his face, to lay
     flowers by the dead. Soot will say,
     on any given day, born to fly,
     born to rise–born to escape.



0

Sand’s whimsy and scarcity/value? Sand
paints daffodils on the deck of an aircraft
carrier, caps the age of the unknown
                    universe.

          1

          Soot is running out of numbers–not
          populace. Lively virus.

0

If a silly con were all Sand were.

          1

          If an ashy trash were all of Soot.

0

Sand religiously stops. And starts the next thing.

          1

          Bluesy Soot can’t conclude.



Stephanie Strickland




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