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J. P. Dancing Bear

Love as Conch and Pear



Love as Conch and Pear

A Zen garden accepts a pear
as its stone, while a conch dangles
sharply pointing over the sandy bed.

One sighs and a Mondrian
corner lifts and peels back.

Bed of sand, bed of calcium
and silicon, bed of mica flecks
catching the light and the sky

is blue again.

With him the sound of the sea
surrounds and curls inward.

He says the world is mostly
combinations of building blocks;

painted thought of an A on a square
and she envisions atoms
bouncing off his shell

and resting on her skin
like grains of sand.

Mirrors reflecting shoulders and legs
and what had always been limitless

is suddenly served in straight angles again.

Each line and edge a blade
slicing into the curve of her spirit.

His face in this hour: a tight spiral.

A rectangle of canvas waits above
for stretching, for color.

He looks into a mirror
the way she looks out a window.

She lays upon the table
and is the table—polished
to reflective perfection.

She says, come sup.

He is aware of the trap door
before her and walks slowly
around its cliffs.

He runs his hands along
her smooth finish—her corner
digging into his thigh.

She can feel his femoral pulse.
He leans into a bruise.

The sound of the surf comes
pouring into the room.

A phonograph plays a warped
crooning until catching a skip
over and again the voice catches.

There is a sough and sand scatters
across the floor like crumbs.

Fabric catches the breeze and spills
over a border like a flag.

He curls around her shoulders
until she wears him like armor.

Her face is studied like Orphée’s
mirror—looking for an opening,

a window in which to slip through
like a breath of wind.

Here the artist sleeps under her
blanket of canvas. She pulls him

down into colors, into squares,
into her quiet moment of creation.


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          (Poem Starting with a Line by Kathy Nilsson)

out of the quiet blood of beasts, you could be
the master of the whip-crack, the upright opposable
thumb and God's will and constant subjugation;
if you can draw Binky or Polly, you could already be
the God of every cartoon creature, dropping anvils
on the sassy, comeuppant animals.

Yes, the world is always one animal short
of a quorum, which is why we silence them down,
down to the quiet Velt grasses as we have done
all these centuries.  They hate us and we know it
which is why the dog sleeps in the other room.

When we walk through the zoo, eating flesh on a stick,
it is envy we think we see in the caged faces, but the tiger
adjusts her stripes, the snow leopard knows he must
learn the warmer climate, they maintain and survive—

it’s one of the few things in our DNA we have in common.

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          (Poem Starting with a Line by Louise Glück)

or are you more the foxglove, inconsistent, first springing up
wherever you feel, the nescient friend dropping in inopportune
unannounced, to eat any hospitality offered, occupying
the couch and the bathroom for an era of days, until
in the raw morning hours of my disgust, you announce
your fading sky departure. 
                                                When next I see you
it is a pink arrival, vibrant, and completely ignorant again
of your past.  This time you bring body of bees
as a gift that cannot be easily be accepted, but manners
dictate that the effort must be welcomed.  Even if I am
stung several times.  The welts and the salves are applied
with apology—who knew?  And I am back to thinking of you
as a previous life's wrong.  And this time a note of thanks
taped to my favorite painting, because you knew I'd see
it there.  And you are gone — I am probably part of a vast
circuit of good minded friends
                                                           When you return
you will be white like the wizen old hero wearing your scars
deftly for the greatest outpouring of sympathy.

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J. P. Dancing Bear is the author of Inner Cities of Gulls (2010, Salmon Poetry). His tenth collection, Family of Marsupial Centaurs will be released by Iris Press in 2011. His poems have been published in Mississippi Review, Third Coast, Natural Bridge, Verse Daily and many other publications.  He is editor for the American Poetry Journal and Dream Horse Press.  Bear also hosts the weekly hour-long poetry show, Out of Our Minds, on public station, KKUP and available as podcasts. 

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