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Poetry: Mike Finley


Down the twisty corridors
The animals dance by torchlight
The bison and the bison, 
Wild bull and wild bull, 
The reindeer curtsies to his partner
Which licks him on the brow
The wet muzzles of ancient cows
Exhale snow in the crowded hall.
The walls grow closer
And the calcite drips longer
And the jaws of the father 
Grind down on the son.
The mountain of ice
And the museum of fire, 
the colors of oxide and manganese mingle
Concavities bloom and convexities swell
And the mountain museum devours
A hillful of christs
Poking out of the ground

There is Vincent shot through the lung
And Henri drowned in the ink in his well
Verlaine shoots Rimbaud
And Rimbaud shoots Verlaine
And there is Picasso
Bowing before the rhino
And there is Duchamps 
On his stuttering staircase
The knot of mares of Marc Chagall
Float upside down on the flickering wall
And ice and stalactite take their toll 
of the rust and charcoal and oil
the bear and the elk and 
the ox and the bull
the cave grinds against the bones of all
and sunshine collapses
to a tiny black ball


Cannon Falls 

The sidewalk is beautiful, 
one of those dry crystalline snows
that shine in the moonlight
like white sparking wires. 

We ate too many rolls at the supper club.
Back at the bed and breakfast,
the bubble lights on the Christmas tree 
are boiling. 

Rachel reads on the sofa, 
I sit in the library and pull book 
after book from the shelves.
Baseball books, history, politics, poetry. 

In one is a poem by Jon Silkin
about the death of his child.
It is so heartbreaking I read it twice,
and the sorrow saws through me. 

Suddenly I don't hate poetry,
it is not false or vain or unimportant,
it is a way to talk and think
about things that matter most, 

because in a hundred words 
I felt the stab of the boy's passing and
the sundering of the parents,
sweetness and horror all there on the page, 

and I want more, I pull a dozen books
down from the shelves
and careen crazily through them,
greedy for more minds, more lives. 

Every paragraph seemed to sing,
every poem a shiver, people's picture
snapped in the moment of a lifetime,
and I felt no envy only joy.

 My chest hurts, I step outside
and walk toward town.
The Zumbro River is frozen over,
but I hear water by the bridge. 

The falls are tumbling brown
from the limestone table,
like a greasy comb of water
in winter. It is just starting 

to snow again, and Rachel
is there, and takes my arm,
and we head home, middle-aged,
coughing frost in the silent air. 


I Hate It More Than You Do, Marianne

'Imaginary gardens with real toads in them.' 
I hate it more than you do, Marianne, I hate 
The sighing and heaving and jockeying 
For position. I hate the having 
To get into the mood, the 
Chase, the coy 
Of op- 
I hate the 
Strutting that precedes 
The first move, I hate the feigned 
Surprise that follows. 
I hate the protestations 
Of no, no, as if this was not what you wanted, 
All you wanted, all along, to be prodded 
And forced through the hoop 
One more time, and 
The accent 
And null, 
The accent and 
Null, till the element 
Spurts from the unit out into 
Its grin of decay, and afterward, 
The depleted sag and the limping off stage, 
The slight curl of smoke, propitation to gods who 
Couldn't care less, 
And yet, 
When the fit is good, 
And one's hands encompass 
The soft arc of the dreamed for, 
The sought after circles, and all spins 
Round as new as youth and as right as truth, 
Like the rise and crescendo of flat stones skipped 
On the water's face and I behold anew how your slim bones 
Gleam platinum in the glad light of earth, 
And I enter you again with a smile, 
And I think the world has no 
Need of this, nor 
May you, but 
I do. 


All Rights Reserved to Mike Finley

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