So what if trains jostle our apples down?
If light that ripens each turns every brown?
The solution waits in unfallowed pasture
famous for twitch and fly buzz. It nickers
and stomps to taste a windfall. Gun shy
but wise to whip snap, it wallows in plenty
of dust. Meanwhile the equation inside
our blood, it strives to qualify our dying:
the crossties, rails and spikes that guide the train
no longer are consumed. What perfection
to feel the sugared apple sweetly crackle!
Our bodies, the only fruit that bruise then heal.
What if this dust is really a ghost arriving?
If elegy’s for the dead, what’s left for the living?
Taboo against the Word Beauty, Answer Key
If a magpie alights on a snowdrift, is it only
half a bird? The answer the difference between
night/day. Bonus: a silhouette of said magpie
conjuring up one angelic/elegiac wingspan.
If a stand of rosehips seems a cathedral
to pheasant then hypothesize the fox
is hunting again. Rings on the raccoon tail,
around the pheasant throat, the blowfly thorax,
a pearl of gristle on the raptor beak or lastly
that blowfly burbling circles in a goblet
of poisoned wine … proof of life everlasting
or the difference between prophet/poet?
Thus truth, like beauty, may vary. Partial credit
for “the soul is a hive whose honey will not last.”
Taboo against the Word Beauty, Postmodern Postmortem
Unless beauty’s a nest of mice staking claim
to upholstery abandoned, the anonymous
tuft snagged on barbed wire or a tom named
Hope whose sixth toes keep him atop the ice
and snow (worst blizzard any soul can recall);
unless a honeyed carcass jizzes up some parable
of value or draft horses ditch the gristmill
for the range, this numbskull poet feels terrible
(useless unless heartbroke). His brain posted
against trespassers and poachers. Tell you what,
his number’s up at last. Organs honeycombed
from elegies unforgiven. Heart like a stove-
up sump pump. Critics say he gave his left nut
for beauty, for one more dark loving poem.
Allen Braden is the author of A Wreath of Down and Drops of Blood (University of Georgia) and Elegy in the Passive Voice (University of Alaska/Fairbanks), winner of the Midnight Sun Chapbook Contest. His poems have appeared in The Bedford Introduction to Literature, Spreading the Word: Editors on Poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review, The New Republic, Orion, and elsewhere.