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Still Life w/Influences


I stood at the modern knothole,

my eyes on the pivoting modern stars and naphthalene green

turfs and surfaces.


Behind me the stone fleur-de-lis

sank back over the horizon,

carving a fleur-de-lis-shaped track in air

that spread into a bigger hole.


                                  Up on the hill,

a white tent had just got unsteadily to its feet

like a foal or a just-foaled cathedral.

Down on the beach, ten black whales were crashing


slowly, through themselves,

draped in wet bedsheets.

The bedsheets smoked into the air.


I opened my palm. A green edifice opened there.

It seemed to breathe but that was air breathing for it,

lifting a corner or a column.


Goodbye, my thirteenth-century.

                                  I folded the money away.

What do ye do when ye see a whale?

                                  I sing out.



— Joyelle McSweeney





Joyelle McSweeney's first book of poems, The Red Bird, won the Fence Modern Poets Series 2001 competition and will be published in late spring.

Originally published in the February/March 2002 issue of Boston Review



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