John Solensten


The old men on the benches
in Central Park are wise to him,
consider him quite mad.
"The Dutchman he's nuts on tulips!" they mutter
when he appears on the April walk,
stiff, upright in the cone of his gray coat.
He is habitué, alien, thief in this place.
His tall boots are polished black cylinders
posting in the startled grass.
Yes, and with what insouciant little polonaise
he steps into the beds of the tulips,
turning the nodding turbans of their blossoms
into the ebony gleam of the boots,
where, in rays palpable as tubes,
they abstract deeply,
blazing—oh, so briefly—with Divine fierce energy.
And then to his studio's planing walls
where brushless lines of red, yellow, blue
draw an asymmetrical equilibrium
of pure colors meeting at right angles.
That done, nature surprised again,
he sits in a cantilevered chair,
savoring his geometries,
drinking bad coffee
from the crooked shell of a paper cup.


When she speaks to him
her words are soiled roses
walking on hind legs like dogs
in coy miniature.
The carpet in the room
is newly ancient
with the wheezing captured dampness
of eros and ennui.
The morning
is a long white sheet
of the kind pressed on a wooden table
in a physician's office.
It is sliding downward
with a slight hissing sound.
In the tolling of yellow light
from an obtuse lamp,
a pillow falls
from one corner of the divan.
She puts the slithered lily of her foot
upon it,
holds it there
as if pressing it
on the low mound of a small grave.

John Solensten has published four novels, more than 25 individual short stories and memoirs, and more than 80 poems, including one chapbook. His plays, including a Jewish Community Theater first prize and a Native American drama award, have been produced by theaters in Minneapolis, St. Paul, Duluth, and Oklahoma City.



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