the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century




15 WORKS
BY JAY D. MANCINI

BAGEL MAKER


Not every hole
is a symmetric hole.
Nor should it be.

Who needs
a world of perfect
symmetry?
Only the vainest
of bakers would
think otherwise.

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BRUSHFIRE

After the flames only
scorched earth remains.
Soon wildflowers
blossom, followed by alder
thickets and pine forests
until all is forgiven.

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Calculus

The vanishing of the slope
can either be a maximum
or a minimum. So it is also
for the vanishing of a life.

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SOUTHERN COMFORT

Already it is seven AM.
I take each morning personally-
        maintain expectations for the day
        that are impossible to keep.

Evidence of good intention:
watered garden, porch board replaced,
        ripe summer squash all picked.
        From here, all is downhill.

My Waterloo is the August sun.
Constant as a premonition, patient
        as a vulture. It lingers, shoulders
        hunched, waiting for resolution.

With time I fade, then slowly wilt.
Pray for afterlife beyond the shade.
        Imagining cool umbrella drinks
        chock full of ice and booze.

Southern comfort is found
in a straight-back oak rocker.
        Anchored by a view of the road,
        and a list of things to do.

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The day is like wide water, without sound,
Stilled for the passing of her dreaming feet.

        Tennyson

CRADLED WORLD


Above the quarreling field,
sunny-side up like a fresh
cracked morning egg,

clouds straddle sky for dear
life. Priested winds continue
the pilgrimage. Paired just so
they whistle in Chinese rhythm.

Raw branches fix night lines
of October sky. A red-eyed
moon reflects inverted light.

Day-lilies rise before an aging
afternoon then turn to the wind.

From Cassiopeia a yellow star
protects us. We pause to catch
our breadth, watch the branches grow.

Warm rain hastens death's repose
while withered time pursues
this cradled world in silence.

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DEAD LETTERS

Punishing winter storms pass
over frozen ground, as hesitant

steps crush crystal ice to a
democracy of rearranged glass

and soot. Gears of mechanical
clocks grind away earlier good

intentions. Lost lovers gather
as glossed-over imposters fill

the void. In desk drawers, dead
letters extract dusty vengeance.

Smiles patterned after film-noir
brutes from the golden age rise

once more and spread like
patient shoots of mobile ivy

creeping down a red brick
Chinese wall. Only in natural

light do evening drubbings
of battered senses cease.

================

Just a few lines written
With these fat hands,
The ones that children
Feel the need to touch
And you accuse so often
Of being drunk. Any
Favorite movie with
Chinese take-out to
Get us through those
Love scenes you seem
To care so much about
And that I seem to fumble
Most with the chopsticks
In.

================

When the blackbird flew out of sight
It marked the edge
Of one of many circles.

        Wallace Stevens

Excess

In this the hour of receding
Sea, quiet spreads like dusk
Over silicate sand.
Wailing birds tell the story
Of a journey not completed.
In day's ending pause
Sparrows drift downwind
As vortex swirls. Crooked

Children weep for light
Like broken tambourines.

Unstilled streams string
Along the muddied banks
As drifting water fills
A thousand cups. Night
trundles off the excess.

This is the season of death.
As slaves of tide and phases
Of the moon we pray Ave Maria
Fill us with your grace.

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FAVORITE PLACE

We arrive this November
evening, under the fixed-point
silence of a hunter's sky
and backdrop of chestnut leaves,
twisting in braggadocio.

With an eye on Spring,
we wade, stork-legged in the river,
as anxious trout sense the meal
in waiting. In woody light
I break the briny camisole,
again and again. But I am patient,
and this is the time I love.

In this river, white swells rise and fall
in cadence to an impatient moon.
What survives are those things
lost in time and tide.
Though I cannot see you,
we are connected by alluvial earth
and the knowledge that we are mortal.

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GLUE

It's not as if
one thing would not
on its own
stick to something
else. Its just
that sometimes
everyone needs
a little help.

================

GOOD FOR THE GOOSE

I have never bought into
that "what's good for
the goose is good for
the gander" nonsense.
After all one is female
and the other isn't. Who
writes this stuff anyway?

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THE GREAT MASTERS

I have seen fruit
from God and fruit
through your eyes.
Is it blasphemy that
I prefer your vision?

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CONSPIRACY

(On the Sixtieth Anniversary of the Hindenberg)

Hydrogen (H2)
Toxicity
: simple asphyxiant
Fire Potential: flammable; burns
with an almost invisible flame
of low thermal radiation: easily ignited
and flame propagates at a rapid rate
Compatible Materials : non-corrosive, most
common structural materials can be used.

O Glorious Hydrogen! First entry
of Mendelevs' precious table.
85% of the universe is dedicated to you.
What life could exist without H2O in each cell?

May 6, 1937 Lakehurst, New Jersey:

My father said that when a great airship
passed overhead, (a city block long!)
the sky would become dark as night.
Everyone would look up and point to the future.

The first sign of trouble came when a burst
of flame appeared just forward of the upper
fin. To commanding officer Rosendahl
it looked like a mushroom-shaped flower
bursting speedily into bloom.
In seconds
fire covered the tail and began moving
forward like a huge fluorescent tube
lighting up.
Flames roared to the bow
and the tail began to fall, as the ground crew
retreated in panic. In half a minute, it was nearly
over. Along the hull, the four foot
block letters of HINDENBERG vanished.
Broadcaster Herb Morrison:

its burst into flames.....get this Charlie,
get this......oh my, this is terrible, oh my,
get out of the way please!...burst into flames
and is falling on the mooring mast
and all the folks........oh the humanity
and all the passengers!

First casualties of a war still two years
away. Charges of conspiracy. Hauptman
too would burn in Jersey. How precise
the moment of death, the end of an era.
The world was between wars. Once again
Germany had blotted out the sun. Today,
in Pottsdam, along Graf Zeppelin Strasse
an enormous factory lies abandoned,
barely visible in yellow streetlight.

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PUB

In a smoking room
small brown ruddish faces
of poison ivy grins
know exactly where the free beer
is to be found.

Poor sad virgins feel left out
standing to the side
biting lips and noticing
the very high ceilings.

Continuous small talk
is hacked into soiled hankerchiefs
by unemployed denizens.

Reluctant praise fetters out
to those who labor in the dark:
serious laughing men with
Ouija board wisdom making
territory with their words.

A shadow-lift is needed
so that no one goes home alone.

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Thou know'st, the first time we smell the air,
We wawl and cry.

        King Lear

MOSS GARDEN

Symmetry.
Edges harden
like a flaring tail

suddenly
transparent in
the grasp of cool salt

air. Skyward,
a gradient
of pungent night sweeps

past zenith,
past imagined
lines. When the golden

axe swipes down
the moon's young, we
scatter our wings and

pray for light.
Still the wrinkled
chasm of here and

there bursts with
dying crocus
as white peonies

wither on
cold restless ground.
Red twilight gathers

Autumn with
icy intent
then returns us to

the mourning
field naked in
redeemable dawn.


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