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Sample Poems by Elizabeth McLagan

A Line Drawn, a Thread, the Pages of a Wall

The tin stamp box is holding tenderly
a yellow pear. A fir grows through the floorboards.

Bare hills lean over a chair. Between leaves,
white web like the seed of a body. The cricket's rasp

gives way to a dynasty of spiders: queenly,
monastic, gravid with rope. A man. A shopping cart.

The room empties of him. If he is looking
for crumbs like a sparrow, he will need

the patience of sand. Out of the choir, a voice
like a throb of torn paper. A small prayer,

a little shrug of who knows when the body
will cast the body into the underworld.

But now these shadows, like hearts underfoot
all summer, are climbing themselves into air.

In the White Corners of a Room

Like a linen sheet on a clothesline
or curtains in a sick room the child
lifts with her hand, like the featureless
walls of an asylum, white fever, a winter walk
with dogs, breath like a plume of smoke
veiling the trees, heavy as billows lifting from fire,
warm as the steam from an engine, far off
as a white note 57 octaves below middle C
singing from a black hole in space,
the fog inside a white dress,
the body pressed through the skin by sound,
white matter of the spine, the smoke
of words, the white cells entangled
in a mesh, a hedge of white thorns,
bone calcium, cartilage glass,
the acne, the wen, the spits like clouds, filaments
of the cell at the moment of division,
fat like a hearth, like a white winter fire,
the spot inside the eye which bends light,
a white stone cataract, falling water becoming air,
air inside the lungs, sleep without dreaming,
the placental bath of drifting matter,
of urine, semen, tumor, of the egg,
the gray matter in wet paper, what lifts
from the garbage heap, the breath of seagulls
and horses, the air caught between blind trees,
clouds of the last things, the body's x-ray
vision, the fog after sickness
and recovery, rain and the end
of rain, words on a blackboard, erased.

What I Said

What I forgot most about that time
was what I said. Maybe behind the hour

was a word I didn't know, a splinter
of glass-no one should have to do that

with their mouth. Didn't the wind blow
it over my shoulder? Whatever

I meant to say, the right word hid
under the sheets, preferred the sky

to the cave, a river to breath. I'd
warm my hands but the sun is too close.

I'd close my eyes but there's too much
light down there. While I've been

trying to speak a purple I've never seen
has entered the marsh and just now

is lodged in clumps of grass, which
are full of tongues and whispering:

Trouble with the Bad Sister

The large woman has decided to yell
at the trees. They pretend she is socially

stunted. She makes peace with the phone
and the mailbox. There are too many

messages. Someone must go without.
She has volunteered to be lonely, provided

there is enough wine. There is enough
wine. The trees are frantically gesturing

and even the simplest bird sings two notes
and then one. She goes to the theater. What's playing?

The dog show. The white poodles bark
at her failures. Potato chips bang in the bag.