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Sample Poems by Carol Frith

A Souvenir
The air is birdless, a bell of sound, and you
repeat yourself. Hello, you say, Hello.
I hear that final o warping through
the horizontal light. The patio
has lost its shade. The air is white. I know
the sound of it, like breath: it crackles and sighs
until your voice is tangled in it. Slow
as light, you say. I let your breath surprise
me. Sunlight floods the lawn, our chairs. It lies
along the roses by the gate. We’re al-
most through. In the heat, a wind chime tries
to stir and can’t. Your voice is round and small
against my ear. A souvenir, perhaps—
like light—ephemeral, about to lapse.

We pay attention to surface:
hundreds of white eyes
like camellia buds
in porch light,
an aesthetic of concealment:
the yellow skin that forms
over scalded milk.
I am talking about
extension and the eyes
of extension.
I’m talking about steam.
Let me begin again.
Sentence by sentence,
we choose the products
of surface,
hesitate, and choose again—
the problem of extension,
the confusion of brevity.
Surface in this sense
is almost pre-adolescent,
reflective as a mirror,
softer than flesh.
It counts out its own
odd and even coordinates,
each number keeping us
at one additional remove:
surface as time.

Brewing Tea

When I remember suddenly at night
the manic way you bring me tea, or don’t,
your cautionary insolence a slight—
or not—I want our hands to touch. You won’t
remember this by morning, coffee in
your cup, the yellow light that streams its way
around/outside of both of us. A sin
or two, is that too much to ask? you’ll say
and laugh. But now, we’re waiting through the dark.
I cannot break from this. I lie here out
of breath with you beside me and a spark
or two that keeps me wide awake. About
the time I fall asleep, you’re rousing me:
busy, manic, silent—brewing tea.

Leaves begin again.
The camellias finish.

Gilt Frame
We sort our words out carefully, misplace
a noun, a verb or two. It’s random, don’t
you think? Like talking to the mirror. Why won’t
our predicates agree? I see my face
when I look into yours, yet we misread
each other—bickering about the cat,
the chaise, the structure of a clause, and that
is where our plotline always seems to lead.
I turn from you and face the mirror on
the wall—discomforting enough. The frame,
you note, is gilt. Those homonyms. All’s fair,
I guess. One of us will soon be gone.
I tell you words and syntax are a game;
you talk about the color of the air.

Space curves, and the porch
light burns out. A certain
amount of dogwood blooms,
and it’s over.