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Ralph Angel

Ralph Angel was born in Seattle, Washington, in 1951. He is the author of Twice Removed (Sarabande Books, 2001); Neither World (Miami University Press, 1995), which received the 1995 James Laughlin Award; and Anxious Latitudes (Wesleyan University Press, 1986). His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, Poetry, The Antioch Review, The American Poetry Review, and many other magazines, and have been collected in numerous anthologies, including The Best American Poetry, New American Poets of the 90s, and Forgotten Language: Contemporary Poets and Nature. His most recent honors include a Pushcart Prize, and awards from the Fulbright Foundation and Poetry magazine. Angel now lives in Los Angeles and is the Edith R. White Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Redlands, where he teaches creative writing.

Ralph Angel

By This Poet

2

In Every Direction

As if you actually died in that dream
and woke up dead. Shadows of untangling vines
tumble toward the ceiling. A delicate
lizard sits on your shoulder, its eyes
blinking in every direction.

And when you lean forward and present your
hands to the basin of water, and glimpse the glass face
that is reflected there, it seems perfectly at home
beneath the surface, about as unnatural
as nature forcing everyone to face the music
with so much left to do, with everything
that could be done better tomorrow, to dance
the slow shuffle of decay.

Only one season becoming another,
continents traveling the skyway, the grass
breathing. And townspeople, victims, murderers,
the gold-colored straw and barbed-wire hair of the world
wafting over the furrows, the slashed roads
to the door of your office or into the living room.

The towel is warm and cool, soft to the touch,
but in another dream altogether
a screen door creaks open, slams shut,
and across the valley a car's headlights swing up
and over. And maybe you are the driver
with both hands on the wheel, humming a tune
nobody's ever heard before,

or maybe the woman on the edge of the porch,
grown quiet from fleeing,
tough as nails.

Sampling

I’m standing on 10th Street. I’m not the only one. Buildings rise like
              foliage and human touch.

And so shall dig this cigarette as my last, and rattle trains, and rot the fences
              of the gardens of my body—

or without the harmony of speaking here the many sounds and rhythms that
              sound a lot like anger

when anger’s silent, like a painting, though in the stillness of the paint itself
              the painter nods or waves or asks for help.

I’m not the only one. The pharmacy’s untitled. The stars are there at night.
              In this Humidity

the forlorn singing of the insects clings to anything nailed down. A whole bag of
              things I’m working

through, some set things that I know, like words I know that mean "from
              one place to another," the word that means

"to carry." I’m standing still on 10th Street. I’m not the only one.
              The dark tastes of salt and oranges. Its eyes

wander round and round. I am its thousand windows. I think about the future
              and the sea. And stay.

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