Jeanne Larsen

That Charley Horse the Self


in 0's tissues knotted, bound by wants

and spinning words, soi-disant, collapses

like blue jay by own wings hurled this after

almost-wintry noon into a window picturing

up against low-westering sun. So this

rendition is this round's: 1 more sketchy


me. From sit I lift flame-skewered knee ah,

royal easeand recall last summer's Guan Yin,

5 centuries of years beyond enfleshment

as grand log. 6 past tree's arising. Now year's

end looms, a shadow-skein afar

from June, its incense, and my bows before


that statue. The gesso flaked, old skins, away

where dry grain emerged to split

her face. I then out on dawn's half-moon

driveway paced to morning's counterpoint

of birds. Eyes harvested, below her throne,

the rocks and pinecones others laid.


Thought rose: This 1 eye distinct. Till clogged

ears caught sutras. But December come,

night's doubled. Practice falters. Leg cramps

breed and tighten. Effort eludes. Why make,

I inward ask, these snarled gāthās, fancy tales

of individual life. Why sit. Why decode,


why knead the cipher-swollen fibres,

why, why bear the meat and juice, its

social gypsum plastered.     

                                         Why? The bell,     

the winter-summer dark-light-naught-form-

filled bell of waking rings within the aching

calcium. Cage, knot, gilt, doubt, dolor not-

withstanding. No elsewhere sounds.


You Could Well Be in Worse Shape  


than you know, friend, my inner worry-

wart announces. Poems about the traceless? Can

this be a serious plan? Better to stare

out the window. I wring my paws. My bunny-

brain starts to twitch. A great gourd plunks

to the desktop. It might be oak [the desk, I

mean] but I'll tell us both, Formica, and

If you're wandering, open

                                          a book. Zhi-men's 10th-century

poem soothes me: I've always lived in a forest

hut. [The history-geek within points out he lied.]

That master spoke of rabbits getting [happily]

knocked-up by the full moon. Which [to all

intents] is true. They open to its platinum

spill, unwavering, ears alert. Simply trust and the furry

babies come, no sweat.

                                      Me? Here's what I keep

typing: tear 1 tendon and the whole deal's

blown. How, then, dare make poems? [Yep, language

is the body's. You too exhale. But that thick-ish

stumblebum fails.] The subject

                                                   of subject matter makes

me duck. [Zhi-men whisk-whacked a discursive

student across the yapper.] You wanna hear

about my sex life? The time I screwed some guy

who screwed the pooch? My childhood's cocktail

hours? [How I listened, brow tight, from the shadowy

top stair?] Thought

                                not. Sure, words are a con. A flim-

[Zhi-men knew] flam hall o' flashy mirrors. 3

walnut shells, no pea. And metaphor's a labyrinth.

Inside it? Dangerous bull! [Which is…you

noticed.] None of this

                                    solves the problem. [I shake                                      

my noisy head and wrists.] Zhi-men's highly verbal

commentator Yuan-wu: The single [pre-babble]

thread before us—perpetual. So here, friend, is what

it is: some breaths, 

                               a desk, a window, the fickle

rising moon. And outside, [I swear] a pair

of rabbits on the wing.

Jeanne Larsen's latest book is Why We Make Gardens (& Other Poems). Her first, James Cook in Search of Terra Incognita: A Book of Poems, won the Associated Writing Programs Poetry Series Award. She has since published three print novels (Silk Road, Bronze Mirror, and Manchu Palaces) and an e-novel (Sally Paradiso), as well as two books of translations, Willow, Wine, Mirror, Moon: Women's Poems from Tang China and Brocade River Poems: Selected Work of the Tang Dynasty Courtesan Xue Tao. She teaches at Hollins University, where she is currently Director of the Jackson Center for Creative Writing.



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