Where the Use of Cannon Is Impractical

Stranger, mislaid love, I will
sleepwalk all night not girlish
but zombie-like, zombie-lite
through the streets in search of
your arms. Let’s meet at dawn
in the park to practice an ancient art
while people roll by in the latest
space-age gear blank as mirrors
above the procedure in the stainless
steel theaters where paper-gowned
we take ourselves to take ourselves
apart. Tap-tap-spark. So little blazes.
Cover the roofs with precision hooves.
Push back the forest like a blanket.
A bird the right color is invisible,
only movement catches the eye.
My most illustrious Lord, I know
how to remove water from moats
and how to make an infinite number
of bridges. Here we are at the palace.
Here we are in the dark, dark woods.


Copyright © 2015 by Lisa Olstein. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 11, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“Propelled by longing’s slant, in this poem I pursued a tripping forward relationship between sound and sense where one invents and extends the other as if each new image or address constitutes the plank we’re walking as it’s being built beneath our feet—which, of course, is often how it feels to move through the quick-cut juxtapositions of our lives. The poem is framed by a couple of phrases sampled from a job-seeking letter by Leonardo da Vinci (When the use of cannon is impractical, and My most industrious Lord…bridges) in which he carefully lists some of his extraordinary skills. Not only is the language beautiful and full of the twang of a true alternate reality, but this beauty and resonance is colored by a sense of the outlandish, which is central to the poem as a whole, an outlandishness manufactured and mirrored by us in our jumble of high/low, joyful/sad, succeeding/failing, sensible/preposterous—all held together in a body, by a voice. The poem also samples a phrase from Sarah Ruhl: Here we are in the forest.”
Lisa Olstein