ISSUE 22
February 2003

Margot Schilpp

 

Margot Schilpp Margot Schilpp's first collection of poetry, The World's Last Night, was published in 2001 by Carnegie Mellon University Press. She teaches at the University of Cincinnati.
After The Cocktail Hours    Click to hear in real audio


You left me to clean up the assorted messes
we'd both made, but I don't resent it,
even while I remember how dustpans
of Cheerios and brooms of webs
appeared in my hands like debt.
I don't blame you. It's nearly evening

and the sky is turning down its light.
I know you are waiting at the switch,
your hands full of shot-glass and bottle
for the all-clear. You've made it
past five o'clock. Another cruelty:
your eyes, with their stirrings

and wanderings. I wanted to lie down
in them and pull your lids over me.
I wanted, forgive me, to drown in them.
What's left is one gardenia and a
watering can filled with silk.
I don't resent holding your hair

behind you. I don't resent the moon
when it makes its slow passes.
There's something about light
and whiskey and pine trees
that clarify the night, as if we'd left it
boiling on the stove. I didn't know

you were a desert. I didn't know I was
a nomad. Some things can't be
helped: they'll pull an arm
behind your back and whisper,
your money or your life, and by god,
sometimes the money's worth more.

 

 

For The Cormorants Click to hear in real audio
Whose Necks Are Loosely Tied With String
So They May Not Swallow Their Catch
   


It must disappoint them to find
the fish will not go smoothly
down the throat, will not go down

at all, even after the glare on the water
softens to reveal what looks like dinner
moving beneath the surface, even

after the bill is full, the weight expanding
the pouch like the loose upper arms
of a grandmother on a farm near Wichita.

She reaches under the hens each day, walks
back to the house with a basket
of white sunrise. The planet revolves.

Cooks tie kerchiefs under their chins.
A million skillets crackle under bacon
and eggs. A continent away, the refuge

attracts a third-grade class. They wing
it across the preserve's dry flats and yell
when they spot a new species, tell-tale

markings the code to distinguishing
between—what? Between two birds
whose genetic material is so close

that their body shapes, their wingspans,
their very swallowness or kildeerness
depends a little on perception and longing.

A yellow-headed blackbird lifts
above the reeds, startles a boy into turning
his head. And it's enough—it's that

astonishing—that small change in trajectory
that will remind him all his life
how insignificant his decisions—to the planet,

to the mountains and estuaries and oceans,
to migratory and mating rituals—he's not
responsible for changing anything but himself,

not ever, even though in this, his one life,
he's never approached the bird and snugged
the string. He hasn't untied it, either, and

when the birds travel low, ripples spread over
the surface of the water in some sympathetic
pantomime of the vibrations the strings make

around the cormorants' necks each time they
find, once again, that their lives have turned into
someone else's dinner, someone else's flight.

 

 

Margot Schilpp: Poetry
Copyright © 2003 The Cortland Review Issue 22The Cortland Review