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Today's poems are by Molly Peacock

The Land of Tears

You can stop in the spot you're already in
and enter the Land of Tears. It takes
a liquid thought inside the tin
mixing bowl of the brain pan, full of aches
from the scraping of your mind-spoon to make
the journey of the ingredients, the batter
that you turn out into a pan and bake
back into your old self, now new matter,
all because of that liquid thought mixed up
with your dry milled existence. Curiously
simple tears stop the furiously
chruned air, as a door opening up
stops an argument. You know what you meant.
As, after a rain, the air is brilliant.


A Kind of Parlance

At 3 PM she feeds the penguins
in her red parka. It is a small marine zoo.

You and I are here. We hardly
know each other, this winter.

Beside her fishpail is the clipboard.
She plunges a hand in the silver mess

then pencils in who seems
to get what fish.

All the gentoo mill around her
except for Rocko, who is sick today.

These penguins do not see
very well out of water.

In the rookery they find
their partners by pitch.

This is somewhere between you
pressing against the screen yelling

Mol-llleee! and the sound of it
whispered in low registers.

But gentoo penguins see underwater
wonderfully, from their camouflage.

To the seal, the black back looks like sea.
To the fish, the white breast looks like ice.

Nor do they swim. The gentoo seem to fly. The water
is sky. The birds are water. The birds are ice.

It is very much like love,
these reversals.

The extremities of warm oils in arctic waters,
the miraculous lids of their eyes. . . .

The woman still called Rocko,
who stayed when the others were fed.

"Are you sick?"
She shifted the pail, straightened her back,

and dangled the last fish.
She called rockorocko imitating the gentoo,

a gentle, glottal sound, but somewhat loud,
again, a few times, calling from her teeth.

Rocko came slowly under her arm
at four o'clock in the winter.

She smoothed his head and asked
the questions, "What's the matter?"

"Are you sick?" "What's the matter?"
Just those questions, many times.

Near the marina ice broke against the tugs.
For a moment I felt lifeless,

like the time when I was kept,
for some symptom of my eyes, in a dark room.

I wanted to smoke, or to drink,
or to leave very quickly—then saw

the shoulders of your jacket against the sky
and made the gesture which became a necessity, to look up

and there was no place to go which was right.
So I faced

the fact of our proximity
and the desire I knew

we both felt, to move
slowly under the arm of that woman.

By the rookery, battened for the night,
we both began speaking gentoo.

I whispered rockorocko in a low register,
and you asked, in the voice of the woman,

"Are you sick?" so I said, "What's the matter?"
and we echoed the questions gently back and forth,

the two questions, in the midst
of rockorockos.


Copyright © 2002 Molly Peacock All rights reserved
from Cornucopia
W. W. Norton
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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