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Joanna Klink

Joanna Klink is a love poet. Under the sign of the hanged man--le pendu--true-love comes to pass. Crucified upside down like Saint Peter (St. Pendu)--hero of reversal--the love visionary turns hazard and sacrifice into finding and benefit. As Emily Dickinson says, "whether it was noon at night or only heaven at noon." Love, like Tarot, is a game of chance where the stakes are souls. In love our loss-world runs, if we are supernaturally smart (and why not?), backward toward finding. Joanna Klink is/has a poet--la papesse--whose sacramental power, the big poetry, conducts to that deep intelligence which teaches "the possibility of you." As her poet notes, "the public recoils" at "turning work into play, work into sea." The presence of such poetry makes everyone--all the persons whom its beauty touches--upside down, NEW, in the old sense: "Behold I make all things new." "And O they are beautiful. / They congregate by the sea…. The Ocean light / drops salt-clean upon them." This cosmic love is intimate pleasure which only the touched one (papesse, the one who is touched by the one who touches) knows: "He feels tiny bones, / within his hands, feels blood." Between these lovers (whose intelligence is reversal, as in the mirror of mind) everything is backward--her left is right). This is the finding of an unmistakable poet--her gift. The poet’s gift is never for the poet’s self, but for another: "Hush, hush. All injury / is feeling."

--Allen Grossman

This page is sponsored by Utah State University Press and the May Swenson Poetry Award Series.

Monde, Demimonde

Cast: La Papesse, involved in the decision to hang the Fool. (Here she is, counting her jewels.)
The Hanged Man
Time: Today
Place: City-by-the-Sea

Please note that the Hanged Man hangs from his feet.


Steps out from the metallic shadows.
Crosses through the smooth
drift of an arcade.
Chemical urban air,
pale and soft underneath.
Carries a sack of groceries.
Apparently knows nothing.
Most redeemed in his sleep.
Dog at his heels, unpreoccupied,
conceals his goods.
Staccato where his eyes perceive
the wicked correspondences,
carries a stick carries a sack.
Lowest at the court, card
which has no number, not
"he who is able to," not
"trying to feel what he sees."
License to say not impossible
and please. Piece of chaos,
strictest dream, walks
without knowing, assaults
the space around him.
Fool! Bataleur! Vacuum
in which the world begins!
Why hang your eyes in vacant air?
The public recoils to create
the possibility of you.


And O they are beautiful.
They congregate by the sea.
Discuss justice, discuss
helplessness. They would like
to spare expense. Some
would forgive or simply
pardon. The ocean light
drops salt-clean upon them.
To grant or to refrain?
To exercise swift nuance--
The man with the jocular hat
blinks up. What was it, again
that we wanted?
Someone lights a cigarette.
Warm night drinks the grasses.
Air thins.


He feels tiny bones
within his hands, feels blood
weighing warm inside his head.
Oxygen floats in from sea to summon
pleasure; a long rest from gravity; billowing
everything he knows. Dangling
cataract, eyes the color of wine, acolyte
to what passes by this careful outpost, the sky
delighted, prepared, a permanence of white
beneath his pointed feet...
Come here.
Fishes tilt their gills to the sun.
Ocean roots in heaven, noon
turns soft in sand.
And seafoam breathing violet-white
against the darkening rock.
Hush, hush. All injury
is feeling. Soon,
from his eyes, comes its sleep.


Le Pendu is delighted, prepared.
Under the attraction of earth
he rises into the cool interior.
Le Pendu a portion of everything they know
about the sea and its marble sheets.
Chronic Pendu charting the wayward
skipping air, Pendu with his paper-mâché lungs,
Omen-Pendu, shuddering sleepyhead in
clear light, force thrown off his neck, his heels
springing back from the smooth fresco sky.
Pendu cool under the makeshift gallows,
Pendu in the storm and static rainlight,
white legs flashing, Pendu
spinning in his pivot, precious Pendu
weeping into air, turning work into play, work into sea.


Perhaps la Papesse. Terracotta, iris in the pool.
Precise, where the stones roll hard inside her eyes, iris
perhaps. Protect the simple thing, outwit nonsense
yes, Papesse self-emptying in the parlor Papesse
casual and susceptible--dice. Mismatched ribs--perhaps.
A body to dress, a deck full of blanks, box-quiet
in the residence, blessed, yes blessed. What did you think?
The kingdom for feathers? Kingdom, kingdom diadem. Numbers
in the skies, smoking gems at the neck. The purpose, listen,
the purpose in the wreck. Nonsense? Perhaps. Gentle, partial,
terrible Papesse. Dark terracotta. Iris in the pool.


Pendu stirs, raises a voice
up into his tourmaline eyes.
Wet from sifting sand for bits of majolica
and weed, seawinds breathe, Pendu breathes
filaments of rock and light to spite
cessation, a glass of water please, a word
arriving as if from some great distance, Come
, come journey whose center is up,
all the friction in your fingers,
moon-washed and churning, the body
poured from pitcher to pitcher, caught
in its dazzling equipoise--
O suspended liquid citizenry
wandered out this far to watch,
where exactly do you feel?
In what part of the head, in what part of the chest?
Fools. Pendu is singing, was always singing,
tender where the nerves keep him terribly apart.


I could not accept
their turning to the next
breathing body, the further
Invisibly I asked why
not me, why
something less alive
than where I walked,
confused and stooping
yes, but awake, intractable,
rising orison
shot through with harm.
Bitter city, daguerreotype
emerging in and out
of smog, streets in daylight
dark and full of sleep,
I cannot feel
how light is the wire
which passes through your joints
and raises you up.
We need the ground
only to touch on.

Originally published in the April/May 2000 issue of Boston Review

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