December 21, 2011
Bazooka, Night Watering, and Admonition for My Children
BAZOOKA

You hear a song, say, at the Ió-popoi festival
holding that a new addition to the alphabet
has been fashioned by the magus, Epicharmus.

He appeared at court before the tyrant
and his invention glowed, like smaragdus
then leapt off tongues like popoi, dah!

The other one—that Pindar—got his comeuppance
when Korinna laughed at him: "One should sow
with the hand, not the whole sack."

Yet he continued to pour everything into that ototototoi
to which he refused to give a false bottom:
His "circumlocutions, allusive references, metaphors,"

not to mention his sudden curtailments
and digressions, served a "highly artificial idiom."
"Dissonance;" "big, long words;" "grand rhythms;"

these made him famous, and his complex metrics
gave his work the impression, as Horace said,
of a rushing river, "freed from rules."

An aristocratic nature does not like to be constrained
to the fewest syllables. His subjects encompassed
gods and men and horses, all victorious.

As a dog rambles, its nose a coquette granting
equitable attentions to the savory and fetid,
I sift for truth among these airs

much as I define necessary by the yardstick
of my own pleasure: Cold weather sweeps down
from the articulate clouds, thrilling invisible

peacock feathers from goosebumps,
and the dead man's fingers of a poncho
as I stride across fields of live oak, catch samples.

But with a fluency that derives from wine
mulled with the occasional cicada
hauled from buckets upwards of a ferris wheel,

obedient letters with beating hearts
fed on wild grass and perfectly capable
of transmitting that wavelength angels blindfold

make mockery of my attempts to scale
contrapuntals down to a monody.
Then stone wears me scintillant.

Abroad, Epicharmus' device infiltrated papyri,
and hid the truth that the zeta derived
from a mark used to designate a weapon.

Epicharmus turned his gifts to the writing of comedy.
A story circulated about the Sybarites.
They had taught their horses to dance,

so when the Crotonites wanted to take them,
they pulled out their pipes and danced the animals,
with their riders still on their backs, into desertion.

Just so—Epicharmus implied—this zeta.
And went from festival to festival with his comedies
as Celts take up their arms to meet the waves.



NIGHT WATERING

From the bushes 

corollaed with burn comes 

the smell of thanks: 	

hosewater runs off the night 

into the packed earth 	

barren even, it seems, 

of insect ranks.

Whetted palmettoes catch at Cassandra, 

their hard shine 	

like that of Achaean visors 

on the dusty 		

Asian plain. 

'Sandra as god of rain, 	

whose totem sound's guttergush, 

not thunder from afar. 		

'Sandra running off at the mouth, 

writing with 		

hosewater the epigrams 

her green hordes 	

take to the arena of vegetable war.



ADMONITION FOR MY CHILDREN

Imagine the touch of shore
	after so long—;
figure in windcheater
		clearing Hercules'
spear aimed at pink Arcturus,
	the beating heart of Scorpio.
Bear in mind the astronomer,
	amateur,
		planetarium volunteer
	who navigates you through
this arcana.
Along with swimming lessons,
here!
Someday you may find yourself
	on a boat,
negotiating the zodiac:
	chucotage
out of nowhere, ID'ing
blue Spica
	caught in the hairs of
Virgo's wheat-ear.
About the Author

Ange Mlinko is the author of three books of poetry, including Shoulder Season (Coffee House, 2010) which was a finalist for the William Carlos Williams Award and the PEN Center USA Literary Award, and Starred Wire (Coffee House, 2005) which was chosen for the National Poetry Series and was a finalist for the James Laughlin Award. In 2009 the Poetry Foundation awarded her the Randall Jarrell Award for her criticism, which appears in Poetry, The Nation, and The London Review of Books. She teaches in the Creative Writing Program at the University of Houston.


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