by David Rigsbee
From Sonnets to Hamlet—1
Dragonfly September, birdsong is boilerplate.
The stir of heat, like a clothesline's wave
keeps horizons indistinct: you suffocate.
An indigenous butterfly leaves the grave
to flit in children's connect-the-dots down
cemetery lanes to haloed fields.
Time that is everything lies in the unseen;
a flick of its toad's tongue yields
only one more spire-skewered prize.
Nearby the last cougar parts the weeds
leveling land with the same enterprise
that tricks its dream of life in overloads,
where predator's silence and victim's tongue
take atoms directly to the brink of song.
From Sonnets to Hamlet—2
I remember the livid look and feel
of first fires, when with my little quiver
of matches, less pyromaniac than fool,
I watched the living flame hover
over its intended twigs and stiff brush—
match indeed—then settle down and grow
its ground cover, until leaping to bush
and branch, momentarily slow,
as if catching breath, its hiss met a silence
of beasts, secluded in leaves, camouflaged,
schooled in every trick of violence
save this: a ramping wilderness self-caged.
I lit the forest afire and turned,
not looking back, as childhood burned.
From Sonnets to Hamlet—3
Between chrysanthemums and you, the window.
Between any A and B, as Zeno knew,
an unfilled chasm, the shape of an elbow
of a cellist, as clotheslines once redrew
a horizon's rise into a more fitting valley,
and live oaks with their loopy branches
and powerlines with blackbirds in array.
Between chrysanthemums and you, the inches.
And issuing from them, heralds proclaiming
change, if only you could have discerned
their shapes—wisps and drifts aiming
to become the evanescence to which they tended.
Then there was no window, just a greasy haze,
heat-smell, then oil smoke in sightless waves.
From Sonnets to Hamlet—4
Notes come in their reedy voices consenting
to take each other's places by turn—
just so. Like us, our stories are sent packing:
this one to the freezer, that one to lie and burn.
This rescue of the dead comes to naught
and what becomes of the record to do it?
Narratives twist off, melodies can't be taught,
curling and reforming like smoke as soon as lit.
It's that melody of incompletion which is
no song but the chafing and step-down,
a blues that refuses the change to howl and miss
its love object. The embouchure is a frown.
The music parts and you find your way among
its embodiments, hoarsely played, nearly sung.
From Sonnets to Hamlet—5
Swallows like soaring parentheses prepare
the evening sky for any words that might
attempt to generate more than merely air.
Through green's darkness flickers a streetlight.
Locusts wind their tiny engines in crests
that rise out from trees, and as if meeting a wall
when air is thickest, yet most empty, nests
moments before turning back in tidal
sympathy with the moon, rising as the lamp's
doppelgänger, over treetops, then drifting stratus.
Unslaked mosquitoes, fruit bats, all the vamps
of a summer night, fat with afflatus
move time forward by force of head
while below the dead grow less, and more dead.