Winter 03

A Rare Creature


The sacred ibis may be extinct, one of many reports
I hear but can’t confirm. My chatter is meant to distract
you from my ignorance. Like bleeding, the facts
will stop moving but will not go away. But everything’s fine;
don’t be fooled by my infirm handshake. We may have to
jump turnstiles in our quest for the stolen arm of gold
but laws aren’t worth as much as lore. Billboards and
oversized neon signs fill the sky in a form scorned as litter
but also supply that particular near-dark that feeds us.
Moving about in it are as many calls for action as
there are shadows on our windowpanes. Success collects
its prepositions from architecture, and we collect in turn
against future triumph. Beneath grave faces are claims
made regarding what I built for you and what you
tore down in response. A reciprocal relationship,
like those of mantises or other cannibals. I’ve inherited
a profession that sheds on the furniture and speaks
without listening to itself. Every second year
the theme is meaning; the alternates explore futility.
Cardboard guides left over when packing tape is gone
form figure-eights in the recycling bin. We have
been transitory long enough to forget how much attention
arranging demands, to erase the tenacious ribbons of grit
flush along walls where bookcases lean. Life springs
from objects or at least their observation. No matter
how many methods I use to recount my story—wrap
it around a misleap of narrative that fell on the car,
speak shivering with adrenaline—the audience still finds
greater satisfaction in shifting figurines. A dead cricket
has the potential to achieve greatness in this format
but in the here-and-now it is just a conquered pest,
evidence of earlier tales of woe and tentative conclusions.
The poison is in fact marvelous. Well, this too will
turn out to be an era, of clean streets for instance, or
temerity in the face of magnolia clones and literary taste.
The setting: warm, but not beach weather, and laden
with concrete. Also note that for once there is a correct answer.
We can expect to see quality art and hear adequate music. Get
a lift uptown. Give up our seats to people who need them.


Vertigo (2)

Vertigo (3)











Beth Anderson is the author of The Habitable World (Instance Press) and Overboard (Burning Deck, forthcoming). Recent work has appeared in New American Writing, 26, and Five Fingers Review. Her poems are included in The Best American Poetry 2003 (Scribner) and An Anthology of New (American) Poets (Talisman House). She lives in Richmond, Virginia.