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September 7, 2020 Poetry

Three Poems

Benjamin Harnett

Three Poems photo

CHESTERTON’S FENCE

The poem is a small gate
on a country road
the rare motorist must stop
to unlatch
before going on. Even
the road is forgotten
more of a “long”-cut:

Nowhere to nowhere else.

This poem shakes
its swordstick cane, pinches
pince-nez to its nose,
always with the fence in mind
which is 
perhaps 

itself.

Grumbling
it is not its place to defend
this impediment
to forward motion,

but the brief of those
who would remove it to first
explain why it was there.

How can you say
something has no purpose
if you haven’t figured out
its purpose first?

Tell me. Really, anyone,
please tell me:
the fence
wants
to know.

THE LAUREL

Sleep, come here—I want to see you.
Listen, I have invented a device
that connects the body to its
own broken-down desires,
electric vibration running
through the sinews
of my arm as it’s stretched:
I am tired.

I am made to pick up
two big sprigs of laurel
some muddy foot has trod upon;
see the stamp of dirt canceling
the crisp, vegetable green,
it is only two bunches
of fresh bay leaves
that have fallen from their
clamshell pack

in the grocery lot. Not
a wreath, poet’s victorious
chaplet, athletic-winning
crown that statuesque model
of good health bestows,
from her breast,

no wreath of high honor,
just some trampled herbs.
For I have discovered

in my dreaming
only a way to slumber
but get no rest.

THE KEY

A low sand island in placid water.
Pygmy deer. Roadhouse bar,
walls stapled with a feathering
of 1s and 5s, like the ruff of a rooster,
like the shaggy armor of a dream.
I have a scrape the shape
of the key on my hand,
from a slip
of the hacksaw. This is all—well,
didn’t Barth say the treasure
is
the key?
Today is a map
with no explanation,
whose secret symbols
a Casaubon might read for clues;


A key with no lock
is a mystery,
or is it an obligation
to hold? On the way back
we hit Universal Studios
for my birthday,
took a ride with E.T.
Somewhere in the concrete pines
on ersatz bicycles
a saw blade and a Speak & Spell
were as close
to a complete key
to all mythologies as
this world can tell.

 

image: Laura Gill


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