Five Postcards from Jericho
Dear Regret, my leaning this morning, my leather foot, want of
stone, age old, my burnished and bruised, hair lingering, hand
caked, spongy as November, my dear Relentless, my dear Aging,
your voice tinny, dissonant as Stein shot through decades of war
and Fortrel, cocktails on the hour, Zeppelins over Piccadilly,
bombing blindly in the fog. Dear Skin, dear tobacco mouth. My
refusal, my merely geographic, my fibrous strings for you: your
abundant wit, your lack of shadow and still joy, joy, joy, nosing
the air. Each moment stretches toward you, your dry feet: I
carried them, pumiced and peppery, laid them where regret is a
biscuit thing to lean upon and sweeten, my hour of you, my cur-
sive thoughts, a pulpit beating under these ribs.
Dear Time, you swallowed us whole, swallowed us lovely, sharp
as bones crimping underfoot, my benign, my flotsam and crabs
thin as leaves, your smoothing, your sinking in. Mornings or
mooring, or wallowing Jericho: tapioca air indolent. I am still
there, supple and driftwood, you lovely, you loved me, your
memory dark and west, thoughts like tugboats stitching the hori-
zon, you pulling me, my pudding, my thin crustacean, my biscuit,
sideways in the late afternoon, your gaze, having so soon forgotten
the sharpness of mornings, the bite of your look serrating the
hour: my treasures, all of them, for the pleasure of that slice
once more, of our dangling, you and me, the lot of us in some
car, driving some hour, mapless.
Under a spiderweb, a tire, slouched: flat, sad-lipped, I think of
Newton, of the original apple, of all these clones since, all these
scentless descents, I shake my glass, shake again, melted suffixes
tinkling; observe all things natural: foliage unfurling like old
bills, wryly betraying your habits, like the dog who digs and
rubs, the dog who whines, who paws and circles. Why is pain so
much better than nothing? Or the mark of it more recognizable?
Why is saying nothing so much better than airing? Your one-
liners like blossoms, uplifting, your currents strap me to air, yes
I guess there is a little texture up here, and oxygen pure as baby’s
toes, which, if I recall, are sweet as kernels of corn, if I recall so
To arrive is practice, conversation or conversion, a story over a
field, my sweet, of concrete or whispering, furrows of a path no
longer, not sure, was there, and snow combed in curlicues and
dog ears a zigzag through January. Sure you are witty, but are
you any less romantic? In my remembering, I have undone all
my beliefs, it is a luxury to lie unencumbered here, or there, the
bones flexed like tendons, the spine like a seahorse, the heart far
from a cliché still beating is innocent, though innocence is not
as supple as you think, nor as flexible, nor as perfumed, nor
convenient, or even clean: between things regret gathers force. I
remember the day you turned to me: it was cold and the coffee
Small red balloons thumbprint like waves green as the brush of
cedar, wind lapping your hoodie, blind strings tap the air. Such
lightness, the dog heading off, all the dogs of English Bay angling
off-leash. I would follow backward, lay old maps on your white
sheets, so sincere, I am in earnest for you: we won’t regret having
not yet knit our acrid puns and jaded barbs, nor having the
wind slip in under our belt loops, though I still refuse Gore-Tex,
and you bet I will not concede the game. Those small red balloons
like tulips in your eyes specks of amber, an amulet, an avatar,
my thoughts of you fully indexed, ready to step into.
Sina Queyras, “Five Postcards from Jericho,” from MxT. Copyright © 2014 by Sina Queyras. Reprinted by permission of Coach House Books.
Source: MxT (Coach House Books, 2014)
- How does the shape of each stanza recall a postcard?
- The first two “postcards” are addressed to personified abstractions (Regret, Time), but then the following three arrive without an address, as if it doesn’t matter who receives them, only that they are sent out. What does this say about the speaker of the poem?
- What do associate with postcards? What does this suggest about the speaker in the poem?
- What are the poems reporting?
- If you were going to recite this poem, how would you handle the rich, rhythmic language? Where would you speed up or slow down? Where would you pause?
- Write a “postcard poem”, reporting specific concrete details of your life. Include words that look or sound similar to each other in the same line (like burnished and bruised or conversation and conversion) and try one or two internal rhymes, where rhyming words appear in the same line rather than at the end of two separate lines (Queyras does this in the second line of the fourth stanza with sweet and concrete). You can address the poem to a person, a concept, or a season. Be surprising and playful.
Watch Sina Queyras read one of her poems here: http://bit.ly/1wQCinV