pistil flicking in the wind—the eye sees past its limitations.
Crushed petals in the dirt, I’m courting a horse with an apple,
watching its white tail swish along the fence.
Somewhere, the galaxy spins. I smile at the cloudless sky.
Almagest, the star charts called it Little Cloud—
chained constellations in The Book
of Fixed Stars. Nova for new, cut fish
for never. A heart held back for the knife.
The opening of large
tracts by the ice-
cutters commonly causes
a pond to break
up earlier; for the water
agitated by the wind
even in cold weather
the surrounding ice.
rows of jeweled honeysuckle
twining through the square
links in an aluminum fence.
They glistened in the sun,
as they always do. You
could say their vines shuddered.
Roberts, 1887, again
in 1899, the galaxy, the ruler
of man, the pearling
spiral takes its name from
the area of sky in which it appears.
Sussex, England, retrograde motion.
The daughter chained to a rock.
sense of fables and anecdotes is marked by our tendency to forget
name and date and geography. “How in the right are children
to forget name and date and place.”
sweet fetter’d. Morning, still, couched
taken from my palm. Horse nose,
its silken touch, teeth against the skin.
The eye sees the mind sees
crushed pedals in the pestle.
All parts are binding.
man wearing a crown,
upside down with respect
to the eclipse. The smaller
figure next to him sitting
on a chair. A whale
somewhere beneath it.
met—misers of sound
and syllable. See kale, see
Cassiopeia. Think arrogant
and vain. Greek models, sea
monster Cetus, the errant study of.
I shall ere long paint to you—as one can without
canvas—the true form of the whale—
my parts are all binding—
as he actually appears to the eye—
I wonder, now, how Ovid did it—I pass that matter by.
1. Line one borrows heavily from Dan Beachy-Quick’s This Nest, Swift Passerine.
2. The Book of Fixed Stars is an Arabic astronomical text written around 964 by the Persian astronomer Abd al-Rahman al-Sufi. The Library of Congress houses a 15th century manuscript of the text.
3. The italicized text in section three is excerpted and lineated from Henry David Thoreau’s Walden.
4. The italicized text in section six is excerpted and lineated from Ralph Waldo Emerson’s essay, “Memory.”
5. The italicized text in sections seven and nine is excerpted and deliberately corrupted from John Keats’ “If By Dull Rhymes Out English Must Be Chain’d.”
6. The italicized text in section ten is excerpted from Melville’s Moby-Dick.
John James is the author of Chthonic, winner of the 2014 CutBank Chapbook Award. His work appears or is forthcoming in Boston Review, The Kenyon Review, Gulf Coast, Colorado Review, Best New Poets 2013, and elsewhere. He lives in Washington, DC, where he serves as Graduate Associate to the Lannan Center for Poetics and Social Practice at Georgetown University.