Finalist : Terrain.org 9th Annual Contest in Poetry
Draft for a Maquette
On Keith Andrews’ Sculpture at Rensing Center
The birds here have practiced sly— they so clearly know I watch; They poise in the trees, hide head nods, wing flicks, blinks. The leaves, the ones shaped like long green eyes, look back at me— seeing being seen, a trick like art’s. It’s paper birch, I learned.
The fallen in layers—birch, maple, pin oak—lair the groundlings: beetles whose toothed forearms are jaws; three kinds of ants, little infinities with heads; crickets who’ll fiddle thighs tonight from under the mulch-to-be,
some of which the sculptor will mold onto the clay figures: they’ll be be-leaved, children of earth, sublimed. Alchemy’s everywhere here.
His clay maquette’s a nominalist poet’s dream: Hebrew letters one side, human forms seamlessly joined on the other. The figures act what the letter’s shape implies: One bends back, hair streaming earthward, hands reaching up, away from the ground that flecks and earths him: It others both. The four letters say “Thou mayest,” and maybe “Thou mayest not.” They all mime God, whose word both is and does.
Is that why the birds hide? They must speak Hebrew: their round and crested bodies sound the Oh’s and Ah’s elided from God’s secret names, vowels, vowed to secrecy, flickering behind the leaves, the woods their words.
God of the Faded Blue Pickup
Red star maple, green star maple, cloud a blue eye pokes into: you’re there, aren’t you? Who idles in the aisles that poplars’ fat arrows pierce and boat, in the woods we are perched in, on the deck, my eyerie, in my I’lls and I’ds. You imbue even the pick-up, a faded gray blue, which totes a red lawn mower, a green tool box, and who or what else I can’t see, as you or it or he or she passes below, little lives and deaths and loves, dust, dents, gouges, survived.
Come now. Let me see you, who churr in mother bird, warble falling-water bird’s two bars— he says them over and over, they are so clear, so what he longs to say.
You’re camouflaged, dieseling the next truck, homage to your native fire, bound and ringed. Maybe you even trip out on unlikelihoods mapped eons ago—inventions that can’t surprise you, who divined the splendors and horrors we can imagine.
Now the dog barks four at a time, an owning or warning that fissures the sky for hours. You might fit that furrow once you decide to be ours. Are you the after- ward, widening the silence that guards you? Will I know it for yours? Ee-Er, Ee-Er, video, video says another bird, who probably also is you.