Elizabeth Knapp The 2River View, 6.1 (Fall 2001)



after Tomas Tranströmer

Treble of noon. Light like a piano concerto
falling through C. The beautiful slag of ocean.

Mirrors crawl from the sand. On their knees.
The arm of a white sail waves to the shore.

We live at the edge of a word like Sirens
on the rock-face drowning whales.

Horizon bars the distance. The blister of Jupiter
rising through heat. Its chorus of frail moons.

Sound is a lighthouse on a faraway island.
The dark hull of the world drifts farther away.


after Osip Mandelstam

This is the sound of night sputtering through reeds.
This is the empty cradle of dawn. This is the candle

cast over our graves. These are our wings,
our silences. This is the broken spindle of song.

A man knocks lightly on Death’s door.
Nothing answers, nothing breathes.

Wide avenues fill with light. Engulf him.
Shadows on the clock tower breed.

This is the path the man’s footsteps have taken.
Follow, dark angel, wherever they lead...


(The Death of a Monarch)

Someone pours honey down a long well.
Shadowy thunder, O night’s cavalry.

Footfalls on the palace floor.
Many flights up, the body is washed, wrapped,
                                          brought down.

A nation begins its slow unfolding.
A mountainside chiseled in light.

Through the arches of doorways,
the low dirges begin, prayer beads of amber
                                          and balm.


Waking, the seabed at my door.
Come to me, greedy silence.

Let your small brain crowd my room.
Let your strings hold, still as a harp’s.

I opened the mystery of my life,
and turned each of its fibrous pages.

It smelled of wood-smoke, ransom.
Now, flushed apricot, oval

of my looking glass, my memory,
be as the Pacific. Be endlessly.

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2River All is well.