Poetry - Hyssop and Hermetics, The Absinthe Literary Review

by Shari Diane Willadson


“may not, contrariwise, the physics be in the
—A.R. Ammons

You spend a half hour in the garden,
weeding, checking rosebuds for aphids, counting

new shoots on the cannas and you remember
your trimmers under the sink and go back in.

For a moment, the barest second, the inside
loses its detail and you are dizzy. Your eyes

smooth the edges, smudge book titles to black,
the flat walls press out all the twigs and leaves.

The next moment you are fine and might not even
have noticed. Or you may be like a wild cat

and run the walls looking for a darkness.
Or you may decide to be the last of your tribe,

sleep under trees, convinced, in that barest second,
you saw the wings of demons.


The caption reads:
A Mongolian Woman Condemned
To Die Of Starvation
For Adultery. May, 1922.

The box is wrapped with leather at the corners,
she can pace three body lengths
but not stand upright.

There is nothing around her
but rocks and short grass.
In the distance,
there are dark people-shapes.

In this box,
there is a hole big enough
for her head and one arm.

She is pulling at a large, rusty padlock.
There are two pans on the ground.

Maybe her lover brought her water
and a pan for the early days’ feces.

The Difference Between Water and Dirt

I let them almost die
in their jam jars on the window sill.
Some have dropped their leaves.
I may have done this intentionally,
I don’t know.

But I don’t want to put them in the ground;
sun shines through
the green water and roots
and makes brilliant patterns on the counter.

I have nothing against dirt,
except that you can’t see through it.
In the end, there will be one big ocean
and we will learn to have gills again.

I made friends once with a circus boy
who had skin like an alligator.
He could never leave his tank
because his lungs would collapse.
I was jealous; he never had to wear shoes.

And lots of things are buried
at sea, so I guess it doesn’t matter.
I read somewhere that eating
a tablespoon of dirt a day is good for you.
I think it matters where you get the dirt though.

Maybe I am turning
them into water plants.
Maybe, for them, there are no differences
between water and dirt at all.


© 2002 Shari Diane Willadson

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