Issue > Poetry
Stuart Dischell

Stuart Dischell

Stuart Dischell is the author of four books of poetry, most recently Backwards Days (Penguin, 2007). Recent poems have appeared in Agni, The Atlantic, Slate, and The New Republic. He teaches in the M.F.A. Program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Because You Have Seen It So

Sometimes here in autumn, usually after a rainstorm,
The trees one morning lose their leaves and the light
'Abounds earlie in the newly stripp'd branches'

Through the living room windows. The whole house
Gets exposed inside and out to its angles, the glass
Illuminating all sorts of patterns and prints
'Such the gazer might be delighted by passing clouds.'

Certain spiders familiarize themselves with corners,
'Their webs flutter'ng in the breeze of the fire'
Dog fur and dust twine like ivy up the chair legs.

You can tell on the chapped lips of lovers, this winter
Will be long. A child will mourn the death of a houseplant
And draw it in its clay pot with green leaves.
The refrigerator door will keep it among magnets.

In The Sequences Of Traffic

i

Was I the doorway leading to the dust-bedazzled entry
Or the warped door leaning in the sunlight against the building
Was the question I asked on the sidewalk and answered both
Ways yes, desiring to trespass in the foyer and ring bells
And talk to people I don't know through their intercoms
Or just slouch awhile against a wall untroubled in the city
Appeared good choices while through my sunglasses
Occasional women flipped their hair with the backs of their fingers
In automatic gestures that made me so excited to be alive
I called out to one in a floral dress, "Mademoiselle votre
Cheval est tres amusant," and she gave me a look
That strummed once across the strands of my DNA and I      
Wanted to wear a tee shirt that said "LET'S SWIM IN THE MUD
TOGETHER" but by then she had joined the greater pattern
Of the avenue in the afternoon where others would encounter her
Waiting for the light to change and think things about the sunlight
On the flowers of her dress and the case they make against death—
And the painters mixed the color and the carpenter returned
From lunch to his recollected bits of song and when I looked
At the door again it was back on its hinges and painted blue.


ii

The carpenter returned from lunch to the bits of song
The painters had heard him sing all morning as he planed
The door and sawed and nailed the new boards of the frame
While they painted the walls of the entryway and the hall,
Heard the same four notes they knew of Beethoven's Fifth:
"La dah dah dah" sometimes with words filled in,
Sometimes in English, sometimes in French,
"I love you so," "Sa nomme est Claire," never getting
Beyond the last note, sometimes pausing several minutes
Or continuing right away, "Tee tee tee tah," notes
That made them wonder when the next might follow
Or whether they might cease forever and be replaced
By the new notes of a new song they would find themselves
Again anticipating, until he sang, "Voila la porte,"
"Finish your work," and they mixed the blue color
As they traded glances beneath their painter's caps
And looked at their watches and made the best of the hours.


iii

After lunch she walked back to the office in the sunshine
Past a carpenter planing a door against a building
And heard the American in dark glasses say something
Silly to her something about her being a funny horse
Which she certainly was not. Last night at the club
She was dancing with friends when a man in a gray shirt
With a fur collar tried to cut-in like a man in a cartoon:
Big teeth in his mouth, a long nose, and swirling red circles
In his eyes that made him look as strange as he was.
His breath when he spoke smelled of liquor and meat.
She knew men who carried guns and boys who carried
Knives and knew the men who carried knives and the boys
Who carried guns were the ones to stay away from.
And men with big teeth. She had seen the American before
Talking outside a bar. He was thin and a lot of people knew him.
She would go to that bar and tell him he was the funny horse.
Tonight or another night she would do this.


iv

The afternoon admired itself, pleased by the way it looked
In sunshine on the avenue with so many people outside—
Especially a woman in a spring dress with blue flowers,
And the others—the butcher in front of his shop

Cleaning the glass of the rotisserie, the restaurant
Manager in an apron clipping the leaves of geraniums,
Painters working on the trim of a doorframe, a man in dark glasses
On the corner saying something to the woman in a spring dress

When she passed, a carpenter with his mouth open in such a way
It looked like he was singing, and the cars and busses stopping
And starting. People were looking. People were talking.
The afternoon could not hear them. It was deaf in its weather.

Things Are Changing For Johanna

I am a little afraid to walk face-level with the orange cat
Cleaning himself in sunshine on the fence post, so I say
"Hey kitts," to put it on notice I am cool about passing,
When a girl in a calico dress on her knees beside her mom
On the other side of the pickets, weeding the flowerbed
And burying bulbs for an upcoming season gets up
To tell me, his name is Reginald but she calls him Reggie.

So I say, "where it is, Reggie," and he stops washing a minute
And opens his mouth like he's about to answer then decides not to,
Which vexes me a little to think he'd rather lick his rear end
Than regard a fellow who knows something about the world,
When the girl says, "My mom kissed a man on the porch last night,"
And I smile down at her mom wearing overalls and a ball cap
Who is right now the most attractive person in the world.

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