Andy Stallings

Art: The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymous Bosch

Paradise

Frank as the curve of your
spine on the pumice stone
strewn beach, arched and
signaling cross. Is it obvious
where assessment and ease
blur in a body, behold. Flip
the edges of the novel’s pages
tenderly all afterlife, but
never read. Beyond the
impulse to be and to have
and have not, deliciously. A
motor’s hum underneath any
location where cooler air
meets high arid pines in the
lift of summer’s salutation.
What hasn’t yet disrupts. A
trail of floating plastic behind
the departing speed boat,
upright and riding a listing
offshore wind.


Paradise

Tarpon and drum decaying
into the thickening lip of a
beach lined with volunteer
pines. Needles elsewhere
shower a wood where the
child was roughly conceived
and roughly abandoned. By
narrative law, thereafter a
king, though unhappy. More
commonly, the child finds
herself lost in an urban
labyrinth which proves
to have been her own
neighborhood when looked
at right, though too late, by
her brother or her aunt. This
is the tale of a face which I
loved and which buried itself
in daydream. A bower of
beach grass blown against
the storm fence. But the bird
of that bower’s another
ballad’s loss.


Paradise

Does desire turn to affection,
and at what cost. A distant
halo on the hills at dawn.
Dirt rings on the table, coffee
spots on the manuscript. On
an island strewn with
volcanic rock, there can be
no one path between points,
and this is cast as a virtue of
place. In one version, he
knew the names of flowers,
rocks, and shells. Intimate
generations. An arrangement
of voices. I can’t remember
what it’s like, she says.


Paradise

The afternoon heat had
seeped from the river, the
rocks, the hemlock woods,
where our children weren’t
morals for tales, but actual
slipping, sobbing, bleeding
bodies now sleeping, so, we
sat on swings with our knees
drawn up and barely talked,
to feel the specific gratitude
of a gusting breeze or a
mosquito piercing the distant,
delicate skin. Once, there
were planets apparently near
collision, and elsewhere,
nebulae billowed gas,
burning off spent star cores.
We had felt the heat so thick,
it seemed the water in it
wanted pushing aside
to make way for a hand
extending. Not to ignore how
we cover our bodies while
sleeping, as though to protect
the skin from what seeks it.
As though light stops at the
surface, or at the core.
Everything unfamiliar, it was
just as well to act new. To act
as though you knew you.


Paradise

The soil’s hollows, deposits in
metamorphic rock, the
cavities under each skin of
song and sorrow. One such
story, already a billion years
told, was of weather
beginning which envelops us
even today. Nipples, for
instance, might stiffen when
tenderly spoken. Like tides,
or clouds. Stood under the
sun the first ten minutes in
silence. Now, make your first
best guess and push your
hands into darkness. When
you touch me here, how does
it feel, and feel, and feel.


Andy Stallings lives in Deerfield, MA, where he teaches English and poetry at Deerfield Academy. He taught several years at Tulane University prior to that, and has published a book of poems, “To the Heart of the World,” with Rescue Press (2014). He has three small children, and coaches cross country running.

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: