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Marilyn Krysl

By This Poet

4

Sutra

Looking back now, I see 
I was dispassionate too often, 
dismissing the robin as common, 
and now can't remember what 
robin song sounds like. I hoarded
my days, as though to keep them 
safe from depletion, and meantime 
I kept busy being lonely. This 
took up the bulk of my time, 
and I did not speak to strangers 
because they might be boring, 
and there were those I feared 

would ask me for money. I was
clumsy around the confident, 
and the well bred, standing on 
their parapets, enthralled me,
but when one approached, I
fled. I also feared the street's 
down and outs, anxious lest 
they look at me closely, and 
afraid I would see their misery. 

I feared my father who feared 
me and did not touch me, 
which made me more afraid. 
My mother feared him too, 
and as I grew to be like him, 
she became afraid of me also. 
I kept busy avoiding dangers 
of many colors, fleeing from 
those with whom I had much 

in common. Now afternoon, 
one chair in the garden. Late
low light, the lilies still open,
sky beyond them preparing 
to close for the night. I'd 
made money, but had I kissed

a single lily? On the chair's
arm my empty cup. Its curved 
lip struck, bright in late light. 
I watch that last light going, 
leaving behind its brief burning
 which will come to nothing. 

The lilies still open, waiting.

Let me be that last sliver of light.
Let me be that last gleaming sliver of silver, 
there for an instant on the lily's petal, 

light speaking in tongues, tongues of flame.

Villanelle with Violin

I was so small, so very much afraid.
I prayed my father might turn into light.
There was no price that I would not have paid

to pray the way the light knelt down and prayed.
I prayed that I might learn to be like light,
but I was small, and very much afraid,

and he stayed silent. Was I badly made?
His violin made sound turn into light,
and there’s no price that I would not have paid

to hear him play Thais each night. He made
it sound as though the bow was made of light.
Still I was small, and very much afraid

when he got mad and broke the things he’d made.
He tried and tried so hard to do things right,  
and there’s no price that he would not have paid

to sit with me at dusk and watch light fade.
Both of us were made from that same light,
And there’s no price we two would not have paid—
we who were small and very much afraid.

Song of Some Ruins

It’s no use walking the beasts of my longing without you, compañero,
you whose name means stone the sun

moves across. Remember our house, and the statuary of clouds
drifting through the rooms? And the sheets and blankets of our habits,

and ourselves two hounds lying down. We loved
like we fought, slugging our way toward each other,
sending up flares to announce our advance. And when our city

burned, we stood in the ashes, and admired each other’s
bodies. Now I ask you: how will we manage

without the steadiness of our long unhappiness?
Can you say you don’t miss our furious
putting up with each other? The silver waves
go on polishing themselves. The sun goes down
alone. Tell me: is this
as it should be? My body goes on

without you burnishing its crevices. Without
your faults, there is no salt. I will not again be fat.
Even my hair will abandon me, like a woman walking away

until you can’t see her. So what
if I’m given other dawns? I ache
for the grandeur of uproar. Light

brings on its armadas of taxis and butterflies,
and I’m forced to go into the street

and talk to agreeable strangers.