Two Poems

by Eric Stiefel
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Meaning, Meaning It All Falls Apart
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You’re brushing your teeth in the midst of one

of those mornings
that can only be described as ennui.
You rinse your mouth without thinking and try
to speak the sharp dark nothing
that creeps in the corners
of the room where it forms a mosaic arranged in the mind:
a tapestry of train cars
and jagged glass where narrative
falls apart.
You’re unhappy and don’t say so — The definition
we’d settled on was the near-silver, not-gold egg
that slept under the pillows
until someone remembered
it was there. Wallowing in a beige bed. The blue blip
that could only be called a shiver.
When I said you,
I really meant me, picking up the pieces of the chessboard
we’d knocked over in our sleep. One of the bishops
missing a head,
a knight demanding virtue from a slovenly king.
I’m quiet in the castle I’ve made for myself. Or a rook
crumbling under the weight of this mess.

 

The Next Painting Was Full of Dark Clouds

after Goya

Even the lady’s parasol was dark. Painted light struck the blue
on her blouse, the black dog on her lap. The wind suggested
a half dozen or so voices bellowing in the night — a soft shimmer,
some pigment leaving the impression there’s nothing else to see.

Then it’s raining and you try to lie back down. Don’t cry out,
the lady says. She’s speaking from the periphery of thought
and trying to ask if you could remember her name. The dog
peeks its nose over a dune, then rests its head on a patch of cool sand.

I didn’t think the world could ever be that soft, the dog says.
Of course it can talk outside of the painting. You try to sleep
through their bird-bright hum only to saunter back to this
quiet contemplation. Where does it stop?

The mind says not to touch what hasn’t been touched.
Hello, nothingness, you start to say. Hello, hello.

 

Artist: Jim Ford

Eric Stiefel is graduate of the MFA program at Washington University in St. Louis, where they also served as junior fellow in poetry. Their work has appeared in A Clean, Well Lighted Place, The Adroit Journal, Menage, Communion, and elsewhere.