Two Poems by David Axelrod

Two Poems by David Axelrod

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Ça a Été

Tell yourself to stop now. Do not go on. Or
preface how, in some cases, if you leave
an image out of context, and therefore incomplete,
it becomes a pretty lie of praise for an unassailed
innocence: air rinsing across naked bodies of lovers
who lay half-awake, half-listening. But soon
engines would intrude on the amnesty of sleep,
and mercury-lit edges of cities metastasize
in the dark, and as for beauty-what about it?-
besieged by indifference or nostalgia, beauty
was already ceasing to be anything but a privileged
irony you might witness at four a.m.,

                                        as whip-poor-wills quit
their mournful whooping, and someone small-
chit, vireo or phoebe-whistled to its nearby mate,
broke the silence, and thorny fencerows grew
loud with multitudes of orioles and thrushes,
with tanagers, towhees, mockingbirds and jays,
more than you ever learned the names of, a vast
wave of pleasure, not Babel after the confusion
of human tongues, but boundless accord passing
from one thicket to the next, north and south,
teeming equator to teeming tundra, jubilation
at the common miracle of an oncoming day.



Against Sophistry

Across pinetops, rising past
her white, shit-stained eyrie,
the falcon led them up rock face
away from her red-stippled eggs,
permitted them to peck at
her nape, scapulars, and tail,
dodged, feinted as though
wind betrayed her, had opened
a hole in which she could not
sustain flight-and thus she easily
lured her pursuers higher because
she knew them perverse, knew
they would soon forget why
they shadowed her slow spiral,
and she just agile enough,
in that marauding murder
of crows, to elude them,
patient to draw out
the subtler argument of deeper
wind on the mountain ridge.

Kissed my fist then to falcon-cry,
and she, hearing at last a man
had abandoned his leaden life,
suddenly lifted inside the thermal,
pivoted on the axis of mottled
wings, stood erect and buoyant
in updraft, clenched and unclenched
her ebony claws, slashing air
with the predator’s candor,
and answered, screeching back
at me on the tormented earth,
where my body remained.
And those intrepid fools,
caught in the open between us,
one by one, scuttled out of the sky,
laughing nervously as boys
who just committed an illicit prank,
hurtled their shimmering bodies
earthward again to carrion-full
ditches that line the human road.




David Axelrod is the author of one collection of poems, Jerusalem of Grass (Ahsahta), and a limited-edition chapbook of a long poem, The Kingdom at Hand (Ice River). His essays and poems appeared recently or are forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Plieades, Southern Poetry Review, and others, and three recent anthologies, Getting By: Stories of Working Lives, The Ahsahta Anthology: Poetry of the American West, and Wildsong, published last year by the University of Georgia Press. David is a co-editor of the literary tabloid, Calapooya, a former recipient of the Carolyn Kizer Poetry Prize and of a fellowship from Literary Arts of Oregon to complete a new collection of poems, The Snow on Mount Si.

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