Three Poems

Voicing the city strange

What sound should I throat you?
A rustling map, rain on the windshield, roar of wind rushing over lake water
until surf sounds on the shore as if ocean lived here.

                  The moon over Monona
                  (the lake) bellows tonight.

Do you hear the music of Jenifer street?
A blue porch railing, bicycles tethered at the entrance, an un-mullioned window scanning the lake. Wet wheels on pavement or a thousand leaves ripping in liquid air.

Monroe Street is chiming a Bach. Wind over Wingra. A flute.
                  At Victor’s the coffee is crying.
                  A white crane is flying over my red house.
                  The old oak, limb pointing down, has fallen from the Mound.

Where was wind on Bascom Hill?                   Look for it at the Chazen.
                  A violin, a mandolin, and a briny lemon
                  sang for a pterosaur in a Permian Sea.  They
                  were on their way to Brasserie V.

Can we sing of the Capitol?                                     Not today, my lady.
Well then, where is beauty in this city?
Once on Spaight Street where it intersects with Few, two white-lacquered men sat on a bench, arm over shoulder, ghost men, fleeting, gone to a park in distant city;
a Segal and a gallery that flew away.

                  But the coterie at Brasserie V?
                   What did they order?  A dark ale,
                  a Vichyssoise, and two moules frites.

                  What were they reading?
                  Poetry. Books colored like rainbows,
                  available at Avol’s.

Will there be shelter in this city?
Perhaps, in a house on Jenifer Street as winter comes on, as the lake ices, and the wind
is a blade that cuts through a thin pair of blue jeans on the legs of a southern girl. Look for the dream of a revolution, curled in the hope of an equal future,
where time lives under a skull.


Madison Medley in Three Parts

I. His wife goes away for the weekend

He’s wandering the house, he’s reading the papers,
he buys steaks, he eats out, he works at the computer,
checks email, scans for CD’s, checks out the book lists,
still time on his hands, thinks about gifts;
his son’s got a birthday coming.
He goes to the Internet,
calls his friend the curator;
he buys his son a lithograph;
He’s in trouble already,
and he doesn’t know it.
II. He buys his son a Lithograph
His wife goes away for the weekend
and he buys his son a lithograph,
The Sacrifice of Isaac.
Happy Birthday
, he signs,
From Mom and Dad
He’s so pleased—it’s an Otto Dix:
Father Abraham holds raised sword above the head of son
Isaac…no sheep in sight;
It’s been a long time since the son came to visit.
Coda: the truth
His wife goes away for the weekend;
he buys his son a lithograph;
the lithograph is an Otto Dix of the Sacrifice of Isaac.
He talked to his friend the curator;
they both knew exactly what they were doing,
and he did know he was in trouble with his wife,
and he didn’t care;
he meant it.
It HAS been a long time since the son came to visit…
the son should know the old man still has some power in him;
it’s good for the son,
good for the father,
…and they should both watch out for loud commanding voices
and keep an eye out for sheep.



Shape of the sacred obscured,
Mound rock on a lawn
Nakoma Road

—Martha Kaplan, Madison, WI