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




FOUR WORKS
BY LARRY FONTENOT

AFTERLIGHT

Night is villainous,
light vain.
Sleep is denied by the nightly
ritual of raised voices:
mother silenced by shame,
father hunched close to TV.
You fit a fist to your mouth,
taste the wet of your own desires.
Later, light is a knife-blade door crack,
prelude to his fingers scorching your skin.
His mouth reveals an open furnace
devouring any god that would restrain him.
He leaves you huddled in the sweat-soaked bed
where you wait for the safety of daybreak.
But no light is ever enough,
not even the blaze of that dreamed day
when all grownups will blacken, burn,
split open and die,
spit out your hallowed name.

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

FILAMENT

My mother said heat hid in wire,
could only escape as light.
She kept all the bulbs burning in winter.
In the summer the house was dark.
"Heat enough," Mother said,
and I believed she knew a secret
no one else did.

Now a house dark at anytime
reveals my mother
chuckling at my foolishness.
I throw away a bulb when it fails
to comfort me. I hear the clink
of a broken filament, bits of glass reduced
from shine to dull shards.
What the blind know is what they want to know,
no bulb needed, certainly not Mother.
I find my heat near the filament
in a woman's backbone.
Wait for it to warm me until
the snap of a voice
turns me dark.

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

THE LAMENT OF THE DIVORCED WEATHERMAN

"What is there here but weather?"
Wallace Stevens

Heat alone does not matter
if the night does not open,
stuck shut by humidity.
Alone, I read the end of your note,
wait to hear the rest of the story
from lawyers.
If nothing is said,
how can I go wrong.

The phone never rings in the house.
The postman is detained and deported,
letters left stranded in a chocolate colored bag.
Good news travels
out of town for vacation,
only bad news returns.

I wash my clothes
in cold water,
hang whites on a line,
pray for shine.

In the summertime
the backyard fills with wasps.
Heat dreaming waves
curdle milk left on the porch.
Gate hinges squeak in harmony.
Rainbows run after raindrops.
Your voice melts in memory,
as popsicle tongues run down my arm.

I sleep in the garage.
Heat keeps me company
until the morning paper arrives.
I read that the ball team lost again,
and the weather isn't going
to change
soon.

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

THE OTHER SIDE OF ICE

She's so girlish
he's embarrassed to stare.
It's not just her youth or beauty
but the careless way she floats
her arms out from her body,
the reckless sweep of her legs
when she strolls to the bar.
Watching her is like hunting
fish under ice, chasing an elusive
creature through luminous fields.

Past midnight he's caught
nothing but the flow of air
spun by shifts of conversation.
What saves further humiliation
is being too old, once again,
to be rewarded this sweet moment,
this elliptical beauty curving over him
like the path the trout takes before it disappears
into a spirited river whose waters
would surely drown him.