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




FOUR WORKS
BY WENDY TAYLOR CARLISLE

BEGINNING WITH A QUESTION, ENDING WITH ANOTHER

"What’s the matter," he asked? And then, had she done something to her eyes? What was there to say about his too close inspection? Maybe he had noticed her new shine, how she coined herself again and again, inspired by the bright pennies on her dead friends’ eyes. Perhaps he’d heard that when she reached out, her touch ripened into accident, or illness, or lately, festered into death. She stepped back.

Could he tell by looking at her that her days were blown newspaper, that she wore the obituary pages wound around her ankles, that her dreams were cadavers? Had he noticed when she talked that she ended each sentence with a hard consonant? Clandestine and sly, she lived before by sleight of hand, by surreal effects that appeared (like the Gospel) as truth. She ducked her head, not used to being found out.

It had to be small talk, frivolous sport that she imagined into meaning but in the end she answered. Under his scrutiny, she surrendered herself into the living body, which is sometimes startled into lust by inquisition, or comes alive to desire borne on one tough question and another.

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A SHORT LOVE STORY

A couple embrace in the corner until one of them peels off like a price sticker and is out the door and all that’s left for me to look at are the good women around this table, talking, drinking Anchor Steam. I’m only half-in the conversation when someone from the other end of the table drops your name, casual, all about something else, as if she didn’t know the story, and suddenly I want to touch your mouth. Outside this barroom, the whine and struggle of passing traffic, rain, wet crows in the pear tree, a long lawn dotted with Adirondack chairs.

What memories do we owe to outsiders? The history of how you and I met, flung back against the wall, chewed on words, drove Short Pierre Street, Old Military Road, heading to Wisdom. How it came about on one of that year’s three perfect days—fall in the edge of our eyes, its capped toe pushing into the porch floorboard—that we began with road sex, two near strangers, three-quarters through the millennium? Or only how we ended: fixed in the eight-by-ten of our lives?

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WINTER POEMS

the heart in winter
is a hundred mouths
the heart is empty
it takes a second helping
disorderly love
spills over the rim
of the heart
the heart’s muse
is a greedy little fig

~
I buy new under-
wear purple
cerulean scoops
of molded foam
such as angels
wear, a ruby bikini.
The dresser fills up
with lace
do not ask
what I am doing
say how I look
good in red

~
at the center
of the conversation
a deep silence
filled with posture
the iris in a state of water
and those questions—
“What’s new Pussycat?”
a perfect example
Wittgensteinian
Unanswerable
or that other stumper
“What next?”

~
Faced with
a rash of deaths
we call it
a great disaster
how many people
die one by one in
an ordinary
winter
define ordinary
define winter

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GLACIER