Carol Frith


Once upon a time, you say, too many springs ago . . .
You tell the old story of Narcissus, his round,
dark pool as cold as any mirror.

I'm counting syllables in Hardy, obsessed
with ballad meter.  Echo, you repeat, and jonquils.
Once upon a time, too many springs ago

to count, there was a naked boy, his fragile face
like glass, a metrical reflection, dark, you tell me,
as a reedy pool, and cold as any mirror.

I ignore Narcissus for a scansion study,
focus on my nervous diacriticals.
Once upon a time, you say again.  Come spring,

you'll want to plant narcissus, put in
a pond, perhaps.  I hear hendecasyllables,
envision a dark pool cold as any mirror.

Stressed, unstressed, I analyze my Hardy, chilled
and broken lyrics of iambic verse.  Once
upon a time, you say.  Cold, purple-throated
jonquils bend above my Hardy, dark as any mirror.


Trigrams and Hexagrams—a trinity of lilies
and six leaves.  This represents good order,
with two butterflies.  Each lily is a cycle of light,

the afternoon, a soft breath.  Standard ink, jade
inkstone, and a silken brush.  Silk papers for
Trigrams and Hexagrams—a trinity of lilies.

No dragon is pictured here: no phoenix and no bamboo.
In the upper right-hand corner of the silk are
two butterflies.  Each lily is a cycle of light.

Much of this is misunderstood: misuse of arsenic
and inkstones, the gradual silence of the exposed silk:
Trigram and Hexagram, a trinity of lilies

in careful inks.  The old masters used single-
shuttle silk.  No pears are pictured here, no willows.
There are two butterflies, and cycles of lilies

in outline: vitality of stems.  This is not fixed work.
The pale blooms are painted fully open, in
Trigram and Hexagram. In this trinity of lilies
with two butterflies, each lily is a cycle of light.

Carol Frith is co-editor of Ekphrasis, a poetry journal. She has been published in Seattle Review, Cutbank, MacGuffin, Switched-on Gutenberg, Asheville Poetry Review and others.  Her chapbooks are from Medicinal Purposes, Palanquin, Bacchae Press and Finishing Line.  Her full-length collection is due out in 2010 from David Robert Books.



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