The Poetry Porch 2: Poetry

Three Poems
by K. E. Duffin

Anatomy Class
by K. E. Duffin

You begin to be familiar with the dead,
how their minds grow small and leathery,
how the invisible bellows of the rib cage, bled
of breath, becomes a slatted ovoid sea,
a louvered egg, as form mumbles its lines,
a shambles of shadow and bared articulation.
This flensing and flaying to sway-backed spine
and vanished eye in its frangible chalky cavern
is how the world falls away from the knife
of time, leaving scattered drawings pinned
where a furtive pulse sped to shuddering white:
a barium moon swallowed by tolerable night,
a viny, strangling hand of winter wind,
a talc of sun dusting foreshortened life.

(Copyright © 1996 by K. E. Duffin.
"Anatomy Class" originally appeared in The Sewanee Review.)

Return to contents.

by K. E. Duffin

Orion on his knees in the dusty-haired trees
               his mauve cloak of sky
               shrugging off its stars,

or beginning a frozen cartwheel after Taurus,
               that divining rod with eye
               of ruby rivalling Mars,

reminds us of the delicacy of men,
               who were never made for fire,
               mud or vaults of sea

though history always packed them dumbly in,
               supple bodies for hire,
               a biomass for free,

leaving a few sketchy, starlit scars
               where the buried photos are
               of children along the shore

taught to name the bumbling hunter above,
               who leaps in his airless game
               after map of bull or stag,

a trapezoid whose corners slowly move
               through wastes of brutal fame,
               the sad shoulders tugged

on the rack of space in opposite directions,
               a blinking devolution
               without a human face.

(Copyright © 1996 by K. E. Duffin.
"Male" originally appeared in Partisan Review.)

Return to contents.

Old Keys Highway
by K. E. Duffin

A glance across induces vertigo.
That skinny doppelgänger, the old bridge,
within waving distance, but abandoned years ago,
sections suddenly missing, a crumbling ledge.
On precarious stilts, pretending to dignity,
it ribbons close to us, then stumps away
on its own demented voyage out to sea
that stops. Maybe it costs too much to pry
from its coral boots. Maybe the birds like it,
and roost unseen at night on their private El.
But fear of -ectomies and fear of height
make it seem a souvenir from hell,
memento mori on shuddering crane’s legs,
of ropeless severings—for fifty feet’s
as far as Rome. It doesn’t matter who begs
to cross the staring absence of a street:
here is limit dumb as an open grave,
a concrete archipelago that insists
despair is how desire must behave,
a seminar in nowhere for idealists.
A piece that still attaches in the east
has a tiny gate blocking the runner’s path
with X: a double defense de nothingness.
It has the roughened lip of aftermath,
where strata are exposed like layer cake.
"This is how our roads were made in A.D.
fill-in-the-blank." There must be some mistake.
The road I need to take is entropy.
Somehow I’m marooned out there in time,
coming to the jagged edge of all that is,
and back the way I came, finding the same,
stories above the bright and lethal sea.
Islanded on a span where no one’s been
for decades, finding only a gull’s bone
picked clean, an odd feather of ultramarine,
a doomed tree proving some law of dispersion.
Stars are gritty sand on gleaming black,
a reef is a hidden bruise steeped in blue.
Now there’s no way forward and no way back
when the tide whispers sudden news of you,
—a thought fierce and ruptive as any storm—
alive in a fluorescing city on the rim of sleep.
The moon is a vacant clock, the diver a form,
and no one there to applaud the soundless leap.

(Copyright © 1995 by K.E. Duffin.
"Old Keys Highway" originally appeared in Harvard Review.)

Return to contents.

Old Dock, Herring River--Photograph by John Goldie

To read about K. E. Duffin.

Return to the Poetry Porch homepage.

Send comments to Poetry Porch Mail.