The Innisfree Poetry Journal

by Oliver Rice

Snake Dance, Ghost Dance


Young braves training for lacrosse,

sublimated warfare, ritual of passage,

courage confirmed by tattoos and scars,

shaman and elders at a peyote ceremony,

chief wearing silver ear and nose rings,

the missionaries thought the anthropologists

were almost totally deplorable.


Girls picking berries on a hillside,

sublimated wifehood, ritual of fertility,

their charms exposed by the fluttering breeze,

tip of a woman's nose cut off for adultery,

female infant's brow bound to flatten it for allure,

the missionaries—thought the anthropologists—

were almost totally deplorable.



Of Knowledge, Its Apparatus


(qualia: a technical term in philosophy for subjective

qualities that exceed scientific measurability)


Here among the qualia,

nuances of the rooms,

mantras of the scenes,

            innuendos of the events,


brazen intuition probes the implicit,

histories of the faces,

            ruses of the clamors,

            hazards of the truths,                                     


anyhow speculation is aroused,

            ironies out of the genome,

unfinished business of a statue,

crawl space beneath the city,                          


            rumors out of the undermind,    

            phonemes of silence,

an exile who has never left home.



Intimations of the Census Taker


Observes himself at the next citizen doorway,

reassuming his semiofficial persona,

a mannerly agent of the commonweal.


Observes himself deliberately attentive to task,

to signals of hostility to this probing,

occasionally apologizing for the tedium,

giving assurances that the data is confidential

and of great value to the government,

his undermind meanwhile receiving impressions

of the dwelling, the familial atmosphere,

the personalities of the occupants,

their contents, their discontents.


Observes himself outside the doorway again,

departing into the late afternoon,

his anima anthropological, liberated

to take his own census of the streets,

the perils of the era,

            its enigmas,

                        its delusions,

a demography of the ironies,

            the fantasies,

                        the mores,

the allegories in the news,

the nuances of the fables,

the litter of discarded moments.



Deep in the Night, the Macroculture


They have left the streetlamps,

just bright and forlorn enough to darken the shadows,

patient and uncomprehending as the avid reader's collie,

to watch that the world does not escape,

that trespassers do not assault their hibernation,


this population of microcultures,

who sleep without remorse,

abandoning the mores, reason, each other,

submitting to oblivion or, entranced,

to the cinematics of the subconscious.


Meanwhile the library is catalogued,


the law is codified,


the morning waits for the collective will to reengage.



Deserts, Silent Drums


If it is true that Bellow thought his reader

might be waiting in "the quiet zone,"


could that mean a state of passive,

that is to imply vivid, attention?


Oblivious to continental drift,

with one's genogram in his pocket


and no lesser person having a hold on him?

Or susceptible, afloat on the thin air


between theses and antitheses?

Or merely propped up with pillows in bed?



Thirty-nine, a Parent, a Stockholder


He idles at the stoplight,

broods on the scene

about which he has fantasized for years,

in which he has it out with his father.


Passes a moving van from out of state,

cringes at the image

of the notebooks in the old briefcase,

a diary of the raw stuff,

telling events on the right hand pages—

attitudes, atmospheres, silences,

talk, real and imagined—

and sometimes on a facing page

an attempt to explain, to justify his father.


Turns right off the boulevard

to drive home through the old neighborhood.

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