Ӧsel Jessica Plante

Lying on a Bench in Dorothy B. Oven Park

I'm not homeless, I'm a poet, I say to the groundskeeper
who interrupts as I stare at the sky’s generous arousal
thinking about X. Is there something you need, he asks?

But nothing, not even the squirrel with her acorn
has more than I do, not even the spade in his hand
has less. If, to a man with a hammer, all things look

like a nail, what about the man with a spade—do I
look like the soft, mute language of soil waiting for
something where nothing is? It’s like that when I’m

with X, like trying to find the right amount of nakedness
my first time at a nudist beach, to calculate the indescribable
space between my mouth and the Pleiades. No way

to fill X's plate with fire, or a minnow hiding in its
silver scales of wish. If language were an element,
sturdy enough to taste, then my body is the little hump

-backed bridge rising above this pebbled stream. I’m half
an experience and no less foreign, homeless in the heart
of world. Yes, yes, I need everything.

The Magician

Mystery is not the same as the place
where you will discover love.

No doubling back to find the one
who never arrived

walking out of the body
of the one who left you. A trapeze artist

keeps her knees bent in sleep.
It does not mean she is dreaming of kneeling.

How many faces have you held
in your palms like a ripe tomato, full of sun

and teaching you about worship?
Count in your head backwards from ten

then feel the sturdy blank beating
of your heart. Anyway, half the time we’re empty.

No one ever tells you

during high school will probably be the only time
anyone will ever come to your bedroom window after dark
to woo you by throwing rocks, or drag a ladder
from around back where your dad left it. And isn't that

the way nostalgia works, by throwing a bruised arm
over our shoulder and sighing in an ear for all we missed
while we were living it? Like the sound of someone

carving initials in a time-worn tree, an ancient name
written in Sanskrit that we read and reread to know
how much we were once loved while we lay alone
in a small room on the edge of a town which is itself

on the edge of a moderate-sized city so full of lonely
people that the present is tricked out with hope, yearning,
and grief. This is what we fill the universe with, a collective

silence that tendrils open until a pale umbrella suspends
above our globe, longing the color and shape of sky
and each person busily twist-tying a galaxy
of understanding to the inside of his or her cage

of bone. Because bones know, don't they, how we’re all adrift,
how to hold us down, skull-wrapping all the sentiment we flex
beneath the shadow of what once was and will be and is.