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A Quarterly Journal
Jeffrey Woodward, Founder & General Editor
Volume 7, Number 4, December 2013

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Gary LeBel
Cumming, Georgia, USA


from The Lost Wax III

1. Postcards to an Old Friend

‘Here, taking form, is the first draft
of the students of running water.’

     —Osip Mandelstam, from Poems (1928)

Slid the glass doors open against the wishes of sand. Salt winds wake the sheer white curtains. The soft paws of the surf play the spine’s marimba.

It’s nearly dark. The lights are off, the television’s blank; the sea chatters on with its lilting gibberish. The left brain’s in its cave tufting straw for a bed: I think of her, but not too long, for life is an arrow.

Friend, the avenue's palms are banging their rusty harpsichords: what fierce music they make of headwinds off the sea! The tempo? Time drags its heels down a long slow unspooling of everlasting noon. Saloon doors swing open dropping Suite: Judy Blue Eyes into the salt air: O that chime of diamonds in the dreadnaught, do you remember it? that ode to a less fractured time, an age when ‘digitally’ still meant ‘with one’s fingers,’

days when we whirled like Dervishes under the slow-blooming rose of an ocean dusk, feeding the blaze with whatever burned, grappling the manes of our runaway horses and holding on for dear life. But we played at being eternal then, didn’t we, enjoying the wide circles we cut with our many arms, like Śiva . . . and everything they reached for, and everything they held . . .

Under a chittering roof of shorebirds at first light, the rhythms of breakers match me breath-for-breath as I lie steeped in a warm thoughtless peace. Last night I threw all the hotel bed’s extra pillows onto the floor but one, and how suddenly huge the bed was,

big as a stadium, this new condition.

The sun shook
the earth a little as I watched it rise:
like the timbre
of a bell stuck lightly, went Venus
dragging her long-dead light

Sean Patrick Keane,
Folly Beach, near Charleston, SC, summer 1997,
the first anniversary of his divorce

2. The Way Up

Art is an abstraction; derive this abstraction from nature while dreaming in front of it,
but think more of creating than of the actual result.

     —Paul Gauguin, from his correspondence

I can see it vaguely through the picture window lit up against the trackless forest on the other side of the narrows, but what it is?

O what joy lives in the slam of a screen door that promises a morning dive! The cold water tastes of a thousand New England rains gathered into one shimmering body. I swim as if another spirit more humble and freer than mine were beaming its happiness openly to anyone with a passing interest, or none at all.

I swim the narrows and a few yards from the other shore, I jack-knife down through the clear depths to the bottom spread with a yellow-green quilt of algae . . . and there it is: after the long thin stem had made its ten-foot climb to the sun, wasting neither curve nor bend on the way up, it burst into the air brandishing a single pink bloom.

I climb its stem like a rope without touching it, skimming away the slick cobwebs of scum. Having surfaced, I cradle its lone flower in the bowl of my hands, inhaling: how faint, how brief its scent! the mere glance of a fragrance made all the more rich by the water lily's surprising thrift.

On the swim back, I’m drunk with a strange happiness I can’t explain, even as time keeps hastening by like an old dusty carpet being rolled up and carted away for the sake of a newer,

the only certainty I’ve learned being not to analyze or question too persistently the yield of a simpler eye.

Marie-Françoise Bernier
Damariscotta, Maine c. 1927
—from a sheaf of notes found in an empty violin case in her attic.

The breast
of the leopard frog
greens with weed
so low to the water you’d think
the horizon’s eyes are watching

All the way down
I follow the lily pad’s
slippery stem
hoping to discover for all time
the origin of beauty.


Author's Note: Mandelstam's Poems (1928) translated by Clarence Brown & W.S. Merwin, New York Review Books, NY, 1973.

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