The Ancient World

by Andrew Haley




the old world baseless

form without form


a multitude of larva poured

from a withered cornucopia


students with beautiful legs

in the arms of September


a broken European car

hovering in the slow lane


on the parkway

on a sunny day in the chasm between the trees


children mewing under the orthodoxies

of their balloons


shadowing them and they in turn shadowing

mother’s long white wrist


on the walk from kindergarten

along the little rusted fence


the gardens blighted of their blooms

life returns to the leaves


soon thicken the pale roots

search tapering in the clay


towards the point of thirsting

at the apex of the quest’s parabola


poised frameless in its frame

zooed beyond the wild of time's


continual savage and meander

blank rot carousel



a lye-white foam off sloughing waves


breaking and blending above and among

the true tides


complete universe

a dissipation of solid worlds

into the liquid air we murmuring in the room

murmur and inhale


transparent as green water

slipping plastic and tangible


among the stones liquefied and molded

into sluiceways before first erosion


in the chanceways of time's molding

and trepanation of glacier’s holdings


blows the appointed rut into its chasm

and the liquid world turns inward above a colored rot


of month old discarded blooms

in sun bleat


the white shadows of September lulling along the axis

of world’s tilt


light evoking memory

all fall a common dead time


a single point of feeling

returning and returned


hovering between the sessions of the seasons

life’s fluttering of episodes


brief passage of light through a prism

a colored glob dripping down a kitchen wall


and in it hovering a singularity

tiniest remembrances all shed


to a common core

fall you are my funeral


I return to you again

I return to your inevitable reunion


in the frosted hay

stacked graying in the frozen fields


dark morning’s frost

among faces that like singularities


mark forever the procession of identities

false as light split in prism’s passage


a white chance bearing the whole of light

fluttering ultraviolet


soft orange at the brim of pink

floating down a dingy kitchen wall


life in my brief forever

you have been unkind


to the lovers of memory

memory sunk like a well


in a school yard

with a little greasy parapet


and you in your sessions

bold bland lies we label seasons


hacked into facets

of a dumb quadrilateral


you coil over and eat your tail

along with the best of us


the best is behind you!

you choke


the best is always behind you!

before sucking your own head


coiled curling back abysmal into the swirl

tapering white roots swollen with the news


in the quest we are the point

which extended forms the line


of the parabola

the parabola is endless


and our passage

nothing but our brief infinite


at no phase paused

at no phase inactivated




Percival that dumb skirted girl scout

stands among the winter aspen

dressed in the ribbons of exhaustion


his shield draped with rags

his sword dropped weeks before

in a near frozen crossing winter ford

vanished in eddying ruffles for good


poor Percival you metaphor

not even the light will wash your stain

from the whitening world




clouds dreamily as dromedaries

loping slow in advance of their slowly rolling ranks


drag the sun poured among them

through them


luminous white eclipses lit from within

halos in the blue passing


advancing slow and pure



dark bellied

dragging their shadows over


the fluttering leaves

the brick walls darkening


around their air conditioners

the mirrors in the neighbor’s windows disappear


and no neighbor stands there looking out

from the room time occupies with his few talismans


his actions small and stumbling

up the gang plank


under a coolie's burden

to a ship without ship on a sealess sea


his mind contracted into a few kilograms

crowned with a scalp on a skull


container of these merest articles

movements and abstractions


he loves a coin

he found on a road


in a place one time

permanently voided


from the little space he shares

with a white radiator


he stands in his room

and he loves his coin


except he isn't there

and clouds passing have turned


their white fringes the brightest feature

of a darkening sky


against this halved brightness

his brick chimney struggles to maintain


its mottled angles

dressed in soot’s patina


from flattening

into dimmed silhouette


and across the lush leaves

at the level of the neighboring roof


as if rising from the same tarred lead

as the plumbing and exhaust


the cross on the spire

of a distant church


is two black lines

flat as a singularity


two strokes against the sky

as wide as the world’s room




Percival you dumb musketeer

you forgot your mead cup

your lead lined stein

your whiskey jar


caught in a fool's mala fides

mumbling over your ashes

blessing the crumbs

you scrape from a moth-eaten towel


blowing a cold fog on a cracked mirror

to determine with primitive certainty

whether you still have the strength

to carry that broken shield


while Ronsard wears a garter belt for a crown

a maiden’s thighs fixed to his ears

in an aventail of adolescent skin

bleating love-torn songs to a tune


we wrote together


on the ramparts of Col-de-Cuisse

that was 1069


your eyes were luminous

I feared I would give it all

for a moment pressed to your black beard

the ghosts cruised over the heather below


mixing with the steam that rose

from the backs of unsaddled horses

and those putrid gasses the bloated

bellies of the slain no longer could endure


we were the picture of happiness

twelve tones on a twelve stringed lute

twelve strings struck on a guitar

our faces as white as the inlay under your palms


our minds as blank as the candle’s golden tapering

its flicker on the white wrists

of the dames who had come on donkeys

sidesaddle up the cliffs of Roth-Händle


word of your singing had reached that far

Alexander was dressed in a suit of blood

you sang

the elephants slept dreaming of tigers


and the maidens shifted on their crushed petticoats

to get a better glimpse

of those remorseful sapphires

your wear in place of your eyes




from the lid of the holy mountain

with the sun behind us


and the sun spread before us over the turquoise bay

we watched sliver dolphins


in the few fathoms

day lit to green coral


flowering from the sand

that day we leapt from the dinghy


and swam deep

to the enormous tortoises


grazing on grass that floated long and lean

from the fine white sand


five fathoms down

we swam with bull sharks


in a murky current

and fear livened us


when we climbed back aboard

the water running over our up-pricked hairs


made our skin seem smooth

as if invisible crystal cream


had been poured over us

as if we were the light


flowing in the crystal

as we rocked in the sun on the tip of the tide


fetching those dripping bottles of ice cold beer

you nearly capsized us



you klutz


do you remember

in the glare of summer


the episodes

you passed through


my little proton

my singularity


do you recall

the kelp draped on the keel


the prayer flags red and fluttering

from the anchored prow


do you remember

the light of summer


as it seemed to hover

in the mosquito netting


and the way it turned to shadow

in the folds


of the young woman's skin

the two of you naked


and glowing

under that light and luminous parachute


do you recall anything

my melancholy fool


of the summer nights

in the Quonset hut


on the mountainside

where in the afternoons


you wandered the shorn hedges

of the tea plantation


and hitchhiked to the greenhouse

for strawberries


you sat on the terraces

of the apiary


eating honey made from roses

and the light on the wrought iron sign


shining tropical at zenith

seemed to incise the sharp shadow


of the words on the wall

do you recall



tired and broken down


in motley

clinging no longer to the bare twigs


of winter aspen

content at last to collapse against the beam


of a broken wikiup

with a sharp stone


in your tailbone

and dirt scraped in the holes


worn in those old Sienese boots

while the ants crawl nibbling beneath your shirt


and the clouds turn each white black trunk

into one another


under a sky

as gray as skin


your hunger grown so small it finally

crawled out of you and disappeared


do you remember any of this

is it all


is all of it

gone done


the gray hairs among the black hairs

of your beard




where is

this autumn


that calls me back

to pure clear loneliness


among the visions

where I wander


where I sleep and sit

in rooms I will not enter in again


with faces or better bodies

bundled and exuding frosted breath


not what they were or will be

but what they are


along the tiniest spell

of my parabola


where is it kept

a room or a wide field


blotted with frozen hay

locked somewhere


along the flattest trace

no wider than a singularity


curled brief white root

under the lightless clay

Allison Scarpulla

Copyright © 2016, Otis Nebula Press. All rights reserved.


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