Anne Whitehouse – Three Poems

Excavations

I

Old bottles piled up in the hillside
under a litter of leaves,
brown, clear, green, and one,
that wonderful deep blue of Saratoga.

Strewn among them,
rusted metal cans, jagged rake teeth,
indeterminate pieces of plastic,
rotted cloth, an old leather shoe
crawling with worms.

They shouldn’t be here,
and so they are going,
carted in milk crates
to the public dump.

II

It’s been a year of deaccessions,
starting with two floods in the city
caused by upstairs neighbors
overflowing their bathrooms into ours.

The renovations went on for months
and in their midst came Climex lectularius,
that human scourge,
lodging in the cracks and crevasses
of our habitation,
forming a colony that fed on us at night,
so light its weight could scarcely be felt,
its bite a plague and misery.

All of our belongings had to be
examined, sanitized, fumigated—
sofas, rugs, chairs, and carpets,
bed frames and mattresses,
even telephone jacks
and electrical outlets.

Art was taken off the walls and treated,
clothes and linens cleaned and packed away,
closets, dressers, desks, cabinets emptied,
shelves cleared of everything,
as if we were moving.

We were like pioneers camping out
in our own lives,
with two changes of clothes,
underwear, a coat, and shoes,
computer, cell phone, and purse.

III

The elm seeds whirled like dervishes
in great gusts of an April wind.
The music of the Aeolian harp
was like a great vibration
echoing through my heart
as, perched high on a ladder,
I sorted through books
and other belongings:
what to part from? what to keep?

IV

In the beginning
she was flesh of my flesh.
All her growing was growing apart.

A multitude of children
have disappeared into the dark.

Sometimes I miss the feel
of her soft little hand in my palm,
four fingers curled around one of mine.

Her eyes alone unchanged from childhood—
their crystalline look of concentration,
one blue iris with a fleck of brown.

V

Climbing a column of air,
the yellow butterfly fluttered
like a ribbon in the breeze,
while orange poppy blossoms
fell soundlessly to earth,
and the hill rose like a shield,
leaning its dark shadow over us.

**

Desecration

I placed it like a reminder
in the corner of my computer screen;
all day I kept coming back to it:
the web cam a mile underwater
recording clouds and plumes of filth
expelled like an explosive diarrhea
from the bowels of the earth,
convulsive, unstoppable,
polluting the soft, blue-green waters
and pure white sands
of the warm, salt sea,
its rich, teeming, varied life—
dolphins playing at dawn,
stealthy, sinuous sharks,
fish the colors of the rainbow,
vibrant corals and seaweeds,
mollusks and crustaceans,
the most magnificent birds
and intricate shells—
fouled and mired in the earth’s shit.

The very substance of our greed
come back to contaminate the world,
until the last fires of internal combustion
are quenched.

**

Age and Youth

After dinner, in his dotage,
Horace plays with the candle flame,
watching it wave and flicker,
poking it with the snuffer,
nudging it
to see how faint
it will glow
without going out.

Old age was the terror
most dreaded by the Romantics,
who preferred death
to its indignities, infirmities,
uncertainties.

Better to blaze out like Acer:
aged 27,
handsome and tattooed
with waist-length blond hair,
he OD’ed one July night
in a hotel room made over
to one of his “hamster nests”
lined with shredded phone books
where he liked to party.

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