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Raphael Maurice


In each issue, the editors choose a writer whom they would like to bring
to the readers' attention.

In this issue, poet Raphael Mauirce is highlighted.

In issue 3 we had the pleasure of being the first to publish Raphael Maurice's poems. We were interested in his use of precision, the precision of the moment: "His eyes were broken, twisted, the way lightning is, against the open, dead skies of Gerald, Missouri." We now have the pleasure to publish Maurice in our Noteworthy series. Poems with their own risky subtext of tenderness, we will say little about them. They can speak for themselves: "Miss. It is achingly simple: I have missed it all..."

His Dream





Words for James Wright

Gas Station in Gerald

Kope, or the Daughter


His Dream


She sits in a corner, knees pressed to her breast,
Swearing that the bandage will unravel at the wrist
And turn into a dove, signaling forth the Holy Ghost.

Enter Spiritus Sancti: shaking foundations, shattering barred windows,
Demolishing palaces of the mad. Her pill-blood
And the bituminous nights are cleansed
By the air about the ruins.

He is taking her somewhere, through an unknown city.
A bright city of flame leading to a park--
Her hand in his, a second flame...


Come morning, the dream-work still persists, coloring the walls,
Climbing into coffee cups, dancing through plumes of cigarette smoke.
It is as if we inhabit not two worlds, but three.
The last – we must…
The last world is that plank we must walk between wakefulness and sleep:


She sits in a corner of the wind…

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I have come to tell of the horses
Gathered and stirring in our fields,
How we fed them sugar and carrots,
Yet once pursued our own bodies through the creeks.
So, suddenly these creatures wade in pools
Of red rippling from the earth before us,
For there is no such thing as control.
Hooves, black as blood tell us this,
The sky singing over our heads--
You have always wanted too much.

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“Where you there when they crucified my Lord?”                

You, you might say a few words to us,
And prove yourself, all over again.

For instance, whenever I see you in your tree,  
I ask myself why you don’t come down. 

And then I curse you.  Curse your name
And then freeze and look stupidly around the yard.

I wonder what would happen if you appeared.
If you appeared to me, along with the other idiots,
And then stared at us. 
What clever things might we say?

Like you were the school pariah, but tougher than us,
Most likely we’d fib.
We’d spare your feelings and say that we had not seen
You descend from the tree.

Comb your hair, walk toward us.

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Having reckoned victories,
I’ve only once been right:
Often, arguments find my tongue
On the adversary’s lap --
So that on the ride home from school,
As certain as a basic sum,
Certain as the sun’s
Blameless geometry,
The green vinyl seat warm:
My mother is in the yard again,
Screaming at neighbors,
Waving her slender, manic arms.

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A boy waits near the road.
The old man is twisted again,
Reeling about the house,
Popping his leather belt.
A boy waits near the road.
He can hear locusts.
Somehow, they are.
Somehow, they are everywhere.

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Words for James Wright

Miles down the locust road toward town,
At the dusty bar in which years later I will waste
Myself on an unhinged, eight-year bender --  
Material for a few fractured songs --  
Men smoked and drank, their voices the sound
Of locusts. 

With heavy lungs and desiccated throats, 
These old voices teem and mutter in my skull
Shames that cut and bore
Like saws and splitters, a mill of failure
Churning at the shore of a river.

The reeking water still summons
Them back to work.

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Gas Station in Gerald

Yesterday, my father saw me for the first time

Since my release from the Highland Center.

We were in his Impala, and my hands were shaking and fumbling for another cigarette.

“Here,” he said. “Take this money.”

His eyes were broken, twisted, the way lightning is, against the open, dead skies of Gerald, Missouri.

“I can’t.  I just can’t.”

I do not know why we had stopped, but we had.

I recalled a red pencilbox, he’d bought me on my first day of school.

Thinking of it––the color of old blood, the wood worn smooth––thinking of it, I want to bring him closer to me.

“My god, those years in the ward,” he said. “My god.”

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Kope, or the Daughter

Dramatis Personae:

Audrey, Kore, Miss, Daughter – played by me

Samuel Becket – played by himself

Dalmatians – played by pleasant dogs

The Speaker in the Poem – played by a library

Nurses & Doctors – played by history

War – played by some & not others

The Ambulance – played by a red song

Daemons – played by musicians


To whom should I address this,
But God – who pardons Miss Audrey
With old, rejuvenated speech?
Who pardons her from this place.


Our nights arrive with glinting teeth.
In dog-days, I stand & sway beneath Sirius,
Touching lace – a black tree
Parted ten thousand times by the moonlight.


I once had money & a will; sea-blown
Dalmatians barked & yawned near heavy breakers.
Hide her, & this, in heavy sand.
Hide the red beach ball.


I have, Audrey, an imagination –
Drowned in ink, undone by influence.
A cot, a blanket, weak coffee.
Now, this 4th strange hymn –
My offering too late.
Who slaughters
The lamb, mumbles
Over its body.


Miss.  It’s achingly simple: 
I have missed it all.
Do not outwear your jacket’s welcome,
Or shrivel under lock & key.
I raise my head in time (I am only able to move
My head, see.)
To see you as my daughter,
My glowing, wayward daughter.

VI.  [Samuel Beckett]

Be Antigone, at least.
Observe the pieties,
This place, this home.
Bury me when I have buried you.
Tell the state to screw itself.
Read your ass off & dust the shelves.
Take care to fail better & again & again.
Dear daughter, I’ve seen you all too well.
Don’t let them banish what’s good in you.
Don’t let them touch there.


I see, I see.  You wanted out.
I see your shifts, your moods.
I might betray you.  I am not your brother.


When rounds are made,
A doctor hands me a cup of pills,
Then jumps back.  I will be jacketed.
I pull a band from a pocket,
A wedding ring for you, my dearest.
They suddenly pounce, mistaking its flash
For a knife.  We all slip in capsules & water.


One day, Miss, I will let you truly hear
What it is I think of war.


You have a weird sister, Miss.
She calls to me with her short skirts & all
That breeze – playground-torn,
I can’t help but gaze.
For a minute, there is the patch of white
Peering out.  It is a flag, my flag,
A private, torturous view.
She climbs the jungle gym.
She climbs through the air.
I look & look.
I didn’t want to admit this.
Here.  This is the bathroom they’ve given us.


This might be a betrayal.
It’s bad to feel so much.


And here is the cage in which I sing,
Miss, and bark at your sister,
Her fucked-out eyes,
Back & back again.


You & I sit on the teeter-totter.
Bright & cold morning,
Church hymns spill over the hills.
I fall from the top, busting my head.
Pigeons gather around my body.
You spring again from my mind:
My daemon can outdo your daemon.


So the docs ask me to tell them
Where Audrey came from.
- from these songs
- from the long days spent quiet, alone
- from nous, Plotinus, and the sheet of stars
- from really knowing things, not just kind of
- a sister, who will be free as well.
- from the private realm, now public as a library.

Audrey, you always had access to these vaults.
Undo the lock.  Here


Once, there was a ride in an ambulance,
And it cried & sang out
& bled over the highways
& I raised up
& looked out the back window
& said how wonderful it was
That we were headed to the city
Where you & I could see a baseball game.




Evening drops with the quickness of grasshoppers
Flicking around the field near the movie theater.
My date & I enter the row of heads
& faces tuned to the screen.
It sounds like rain.
I think of you, Audrey,
As what’s-her-name will not touch nor be touched.
A boy whom I have wanted to punch out,
Have kicked in my dreams,
Gathers her in his black car,
& I can’t remember who was in the movie.
Yes.  I remember. 
I walked home, groping & feeling up the wind.
It received me.  But I wanted
Your small hands to pluck tickets – flowers –
As I waited near the ball diamond.


This is what I think of war.


Daemon.  Where do they send us
When we are stricken, struck out,
Our mental passports stamped?
Glinting teeth clenched,
Sirius barking, Audrey yelling off her head
It being days since this?
I hardly know.  I know that I do not.


Here is a dead dog you can see out the window.
The grasses stir, announcing an end.
This is portrait of this artist as a dog.
They must have shot him good,
Right in the arm.  Where they should.


I continue free to make & remake you,
Audrey.  I am the great community sculptor.
This is where I, all of us, work.


Come along now.  Alone.  With five dollar words.
You are a palimpsest
Coating the walls here.  Here,
My hands are fierce with nerves, the fiercest harp –
& shaking, hold photographs
of you then & now:
Some nurse asks what I am looking at,
As I stare down into these medicated paws.


I was merely looking, ma’am, at this –
A girl in plaid, small,
Petting a Dalmatian by the shore.
A puppy licking an older woman’s face.


Would you hold this book?


The days are numbered here.
Death does not peer through the clouds.
My moods settle down.
I have lied to them,
& have made great friends,
Friends, too, who have made
So many things in the communal area.
I’ll be set free in a week or so.
Xaipe, daughter.


I come over the hill again,
It is as if everything’s on fire
& I am crying.  What to do
With all of this air & freedom?
Behind me white buildings shake.
Shadows fly out the barred windows.
There is something still inside me,
Something no one will touch.

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For beauty’s sake,
I sat near the river, stared out at a fawn –
With only heaviness to remake
The fierceness of this heart,
All that’s left of its useless powers.

The fawn, surefooted, sure, sure in its instinct,
The sure, tawny body, drew in its breath,
Darted from the waters and faded into red hills.

I didn’t know what beauty was,
Only that it rode away upon her back.

What would I say if you asked me about the women I have loved?
Or the way that they have loved me?
I cannot tell you of them, or of their departures.

Again, the fawn.
If we had a common speech,
If I would whisper into those sharp ears,
Yes, yes I did.  I am as I am, and am no other way,

The creature would speed into its madness,
Knowing something it could not.
And I might follow that madness,
Trace it back into the heart.

These fields stretch so far. I can only call them god.

Far from myself, I misplace things -
Lose a wallet near some cattails,
Car keys in the crotch of an innocent tree.
I mishear the rush of cars and rain,
Four chambers, some ventricles, parted again
By boats that never made a voyage.

I sat down by the river,
The fawn somewhere unknown, hidden.
It took all beauty with it.

I cried out that I had only this,
This blackness that houses blood,
Blood with its own cadence,
A river running wild, the stars caught in my throat.

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Raphael Maurice lives is St. Louis, Missouri and teaches English at Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville.

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