Late Light on a Dark Sky

Late Light on a Dark Sky

by Judith Cordary


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781504952743
Publisher: AuthorHouse
Publication date: 10/08/2015
Pages: 80
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.19(d)

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Late Light on a Dark Sky

By Judith Cordary


Copyright © 2015 Judith Cordary
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-5049-5274-3


    The Trees Begin to Speak

    The trees begin to speak,
    to sing. (They're bare, but they
    know how to use the wind.)
    They roar.

    This wind's a bully —
    slaps my face
    and whips my hair out straight,
    I think I could fall back against it
    and not fall.

    From way above
    (the golden grasses wrenching at their roots,
    the burdocks flying,
    thistles snapping their thorned heads)

    the dark lake's carved
    in gleaming chevrons,
    magic, iridescent,
    dissolving then
    to ordinary waves.

    I let myself
    surrender. I fall back
    against a flying carpet —
    blue and scarlet, purple!
    And I do not fall.

    Great Horned

    Not there,
    and then you are —
    so perfectly the color of your cottonwood,
    invisible, until
    you lift stupendous wings
    and lift and lift
    toward home.

    You clench a branch
    thick as a thigh,
    your razor talons
    barbed and black
    as your obdurate beak.
    At first, I cannot tell
    if you are facing me,
    or north.

    And then your gorgeous head
    spins on its swivel
    (not yet dusk,
    your golden eyes
    not golden yet),
    You tilt your head a little down,
    and stare.

    I know that if we come too close,
    my dogs and I
    too near your young,
    you'll savage us like rabbits,
    tear us down to red, red, red,
    to white of bone.
    So I command myself:
    don't even breathe.
    And then,
    a flash of wings, like yours,
    but smaller, gentle, maybe.
    No glimpse of head or feet.
    No matter, lovely one,
    you're here, and you and he
    will make, please, more.

    Stone Beach: Nahant

    --for Mark and Vi

    I stumble, marveling.
    A mid-sized tide
    runs frills against my feet.
    The click of shell on stone,
    the white of slipper shells,
    the purple sheen of mussels
    take my eyes
    and rinse them.

    One gull,
    a floating V on V,
    tilts in the wind.
    The kelp lies kelping
    on the black Galapagos
    of rock and turtle shells.

    Sometimes I drop,
    astounded by a stone
    a heartshaped stone all stripey,
    pink and white, or trip
    upon a rock all green
    as though it bore a fur of moss,
    or bleached and drifted wood
    festooned with little pods.

    It smells, of course,
    like iodine and sand
    wet like concrete,
    but deep, and soft.

    The bag I'm hauling
    sags as if I lugged it up
    some Sisyphean slope.
    I warn myself
    do not, do not
    pluck one more stone
    not even one more shell
    all glistening lavender.

    But then I see
    a shape as white
    as lighthouse light.
    I lurch toward it
    and I drop upon my knees

    A shell, some kind of shell.
    A crab? a turtle?
    No, it was a gull.
    Its very breastbone light as paper
    sliced this way and that
    by air. One prong,
    like music, lifts its wing.
    The other's gone,
    but all the lovelier like this,
    its song the song
    of water frilling, roaring
    up the slope of this small beach
    at rest beneath this silver sky.


    Imagine water
    bewitched to a gel, then domed and daubed
    with cinnamon jam.
    Inside are sixteen perfect points,
    an inner crown of thorns.
    Four bright ribbon tentacles listlessly lift
    with each sea breath.

    Shy, I touch it with a shell.
    It sighs a little.
    Touch again. The right side throbs.
    This thing, curled in its hard sand nest, is dying.

    They sting.
    Waveblown or flung by their own swimming,
    they wrap an arm like an electric cuff
    till you unwrap them.
    This one stares, great rosy stoic eye,
    at that annihilating other eye.
    The hard white sun, the waves contest.
    Not long.

    Great Blue

    You are a curious gourd
    or strange elongated vase,
    your teardrop base
    all rounded, stable
    so your slender neck can rise
    and twist and morph
    into your crested head.

    your left leg tucked,
    your right clenched in the pond's taut clay,
    you're still, the metamorphoses
    from gourd through teardrop, vase
    and snake and rooster having cost
    a thousand kilowatts of fish.

    Bored now, you spy the gold of koi
    against green duckweed
    and you rouse yourself, you rev
    the engines of your little heart,
    you torque your wings,
    unfurl your featherweight,
    at last, airborne.

    Two Inches from My Eye

    Two inches from my eye,
    a sprig of sage,
    a thin white bone of something winged,
    three ants contending for a fly.
    I sidewind just a little —
    cooler there,
    the gravel burnishing my skin.

    Boots, grit, stone.
    This boorish thing
    of thunking water.
    All the shade that he requires —
    a brushy juniper, a frilled mesquite,
    two boxcar blocks of sandstone
    for a sort of tent.

    While I rejoice
    in my economies:
    no feet, no head to speak of,
    dusty desert pink,
    two rattles,
    just a slender lip of rock,
    for cool.

    He's huge.
    His eye is stuck
    to something that he's fiddling with.
    And all around him
    sapphire, orange,
    the little swallow holes
    made flutes by wind.

    Just one more step.
    I'll strike.
    I'll bite and bite and bite.
    The elders tell us
    never to expend our venom all at once,
    but I am young,
    and very, very bad.


    He's not a purple galinule,
    a chukar, scarlet ibis,
    even robin.
    His dorky little head
    holds very little brain.
    He bobbles like a pigeon
    (bobble, bobble),
    but his feathers never flash
    those iridescent rainbow colors in the sun.

    He's common. Common.
    But come closer. See?
    His eye's a liquid drop of anthracite,
    obsidian. He wears
    his own down comforter, a pink
    that puts to shame
    the fragile rose of sunrise.
    When he flies he fans his tailfeathers.
    the brilliant white of lilies
    unfolding, origami.

    Now close your eyes and wait.
    He's coming, bobbling,
    bobbling along.
    The slightest whiff of female
    sound or scent,
    ignites him.

    Then his four-note mourning call,
    so dark and tender, soft and lost,
    as haunting as a floating line of Arabic
    across the page,
    or how the peacock tiles of Persia
    would sound if they could.

    White Moon

    White moon,
    a smudged soft thumbprint
    on the smooth dark flesh of sky,
    ingrained, tattooed, as if
    a surly hand had pressed it.
    Where? I say the heart.
    You argue no: the heart's protected
    by the magic cage of ribs,
    the Mylar sheath of pericardium.
    It's served by arching vessels
    bulging with bright blood.

    But no.
    The heart is laid
    like gossamer against our skins,
    a second skin, as frail as cobweb
    or a summer's tan.
    It can be rent, it will be tattered
    by a brutal hand,
    and bruises with the subtlest touch,
    the slightest brush of fingertips,
    the lightest breath of love,
    withdrawn, engraved,
    this blur of moon
    upon the trembling flesh.

    The Egg Poem

    The oval days
    fall from their high shelf,
    slit and stain.

    Crews come with mops and bleach,
    but this is beyond them, this
    is nowhere in the contract.

    Tough and yellow as old wax,
    the days confound my scraping.
    A trash of razor blades
    and fingernails collects on them.

    Then I read how termites
    pile their woody dung,
    pellet on pellet,
    to columns arches towers palaces!

    I kneel
    and pick up bits of shell,
    new-moons of fingernail.
    I shape, trembling,
    an oval, warm it breathe on it.

    fierce and delicate
    begins to be born.

    How You Bless Me

    Well, who needs fingers
    crossed for luck?
    You come
    as one dark, skimming hawk,
    his tail ablaze, or once,
    a soft white belly overhead,
    her talons and her scything wings.

    Or meadowlark, my flute,
    your shee-oo-ee-lee,
    shee-ee le-le
    amid the spring grass.
    How you hide, my trickster.
    Where are you? Your trill
    trills everywhere at once,
    a little something
    hopping, hiding.

    You, goose,
    my dear familiar,
    so inevitably plural.
    How you flaunt
    your black V, flagrant scrawl
    of Arabic calligraphy.
    How you skid to earth
    (your earth of black, soft water).
    How I hear, in this still place,
    your small, dark, beating heart.

    The Desert Museum

    Heroic red-faced mothers
    heave their strollers
    up the pretty gravel paths —
    strollers sized like trailers:
    Pampers, binkies, crackers
    The Toy of Last Resort,
    and, oh, the kid.

    Kiosks, scrum for tables, shade,
    kids, turquoise popsicles
    hanging from their mouths.
    And one boy, blond,
    green eyes not wholly here.
    I recognize him from the lion house.

    We were alone,
    the two of us. No, three.
    The lion strode
    as if its parts were velvet,
    stalking nothing
    in its cage.

    Three paces right, three left.
    The golden eyes are blank.
    The boy moves in.
    He doesn't breathe.
    He matches stride for stride.

    The lion stares.
    What is this thing?
    I watch
    until I start to cry.

    At the kiosk,
    it's straws and burgers, chips and slurpees,
    but the boy is still.
    He slides his eyes
    beyond his mother's.
    Oh, his very hair
    is tipped with gold.

    Alto Rhapsody

    Just as the sun
    slides down these mountains,
    violet and translucent,

    its last light
    slants down
    across these winter fields
    shorn brown.

    And sun transfigures them —
    each stalk
    one gold-tipped match,
    the fields alight,

    and their sweet smoke,
    ascends the amber air.

    Puppy Sweater

    My god.
    My favorite cashmere:
    maybe 15 holes — from pinpoints to a rent
    the size of Texas.
    Maybe moths, but
    likely you. My sprite,
    what have you wrought?
    A pinprick here:
    a first experiment with claws.
    (One claw or two,
    no matter.)

    Here, a slit
    where you went east
    and I went west, and here
    a hole to drive a fist through.
    (By that time,
    you'd calculated mc squared
    and speed and distance and
    the precise amount of pounce)
    and launched yourself,
    my puffball, such a perfect guided missile,
    and your teeth engaged the cashmere,
    a sweet mouthful of gray fluff,
    and then, oh! how it did squeal
    as it surrendered.

    Yes, Amen

    --for Noelle

    Someone says
    there's nothing on this earth
    as pretty
    as a Golden puppy,

    and I say
    (as if the words
    were waiting on my tongue)
    oh, yes. Amen.

    You're soft,
    so soft my hand
    seeks through your fur
    to bones,

    five inches deep,
    so delicate
    they might be pieces
    of a tiny plane

    about to fly,
    or sparrow, nesting
    in a dazzling,
    flowering tree.


    --for Ruby

    Today is: SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23.
    The year is: 2014.
    The season is: AUTUMN.
    The weather is: HOT.

    Inside, it's warm,
    like tepid tea.
    The hallways, freshly polished,
    smell like peach.

    Out there, out there
    is wind, some swaying wind.
    And mountains.
    (Oh, the mountains!)

    But when
    will someone come?
    Some stronger one
    to heave you past the doors?
    How many small implorings
    will this take?

    You raise your flag —
    a hand, a fist.
    The call lights beep and flash.
    The lost demented shriek.
    Help! Help! Help me!

    But you (thank Christ, here's someone large)
    are free.
    So suddenly, so free.
    The maple leaves
    flip, satiny, to silver, and the sun
    pours down like sweetness
    from a honeycomb.

    The tender wind
    stirs, softly,
    in your silver hair. And there is
    that evanescent blue
    of mountains, briefly,
    sweetly yours.

    Like Peach

    It stinks.
    Not the usual smell of peach air freshener
    but the stench of poop and piss.
    The Hoyer lifts are hoisting people
    out of toxic beds.

    An ordinary morning,
    bright but chill,
    these fragile ones
    lined in their wheelchairs,
    little patient cars
    at a red light.

    She has one lovely hand
    pressed to her cheek,
    like someone carved.
    Her white hair's curved
    in a French braid.

    He's so immense
    he's like a featherbed.
    One mighty hand
    propels his chair
    toward the dining room,
    a guided missile aimed at food.

    She wears her red beret to bed.
    She creeps along the hall
    hand over hand along the rails.
    She was a prostitute once, she says.
    She doesn't know her name.

    It's cleaning time.
    The wet-dry vac roars down the hall.
    The polisher is polishing.
    The ice machine beside the kitchen
    clunks. The call lights
    by the nurses' station
    cheep like chicks.
    It smells like peach.


Excerpted from Late Light on a Dark Sky by Judith Cordary. Copyright © 2015 Judith Cordary. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents


The Trees Begin to Speak, 1,
Great Horned, 2,
Stone Beach: Nahant, 3,
Jellyfish, 5,
Great Blue, 6,
Two Inches from My Eye, 7,
Dove, 8,
White Moon, 9,
The Egg Poem, 10,
How You Bless Me, 11,
The Desert Museum, 12,
Alto Rhapsody, 13,
Puppy Sweater, 14,
Yes, Amen, 15,
Today is SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 23, 16,
Like Peach, 18,
I'll Lend You, 19,
Make Room, 21,
A Prayer for You, 23,
The Smallest, Poorest Flame, 24,
The Flaming House, 26,
Summer Afternoon, 27,
Still Life with Birds, 28,
As Darkness Comes, 29,
Not, 30,
Lice, 31,
The Front Car, 33,
Be Ground, 34,
Grief, 35,
To Any Woman Dying of February, 36,
Enjarradera, 37,
Fat-Girl Poems, 38,
Big Bright Colors, 39,
I Am Your Eager One, 40,
Soul Coat, 41,
A Rose, a Puppy, 42,
The Rat in the Wall, 44,
Oh, You Hovered, 45,
Heart Stone, 47,
Late Light on a Dark Sky, 48,
Pedicure, 49,
The Pantry Floor, 51,
Pilot Light, 52,
Tea for Neighbor Ladies, 53,
Knot, 54,
The Ninth Box, 55,
An Ecstasy, 57,
Still Life, 59,
This Shining Night, 60,
Chiaroscuro, 62,
Window, 63,
The Details, 64,
The Room, 66,
Witness, 67,
Shadowline, 68,
Palimpsest, 69,
Acknowledgments, 71,

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