Canticle of A

An almanac of almost and almonds, amended accounts, always askance, aslant—ah!—as 
            chance would have it;

An atlas, at last, of aphorism and aftermath, of master, ochre, mask, and umber, all had
            for an anaphoric song;

An archive of lives and ghosts, haloed and half-cocked; a canticle of alpha to zed, apple
            to zebra, aardvark to zarf;

A gospel of asters, of ask her, of azure assurance not gone askew, an adder, an attar of
            roses and ashes;

A Webster’s of wishes, wordlists, of what ifs and why nots, wine cups kept ever brim
            full.

 

 

 

Canticle of Clouds

Stratus—stuff and nonsense;
                                                  how things tear and frazzle;
A happenstance of riffle and spume; dust and diaspora; in short, the long view.

 

Cirrus—easy come;
                                    how things tendril, spindle, and tuft;
The ice- and milt-stippled current; a sigh; the intervention of drift.

 

Contrail—a stitch in time;
                                               how things linger and fade;
Legato passage, the having been; seam in the collateral damask.

 

Cumulus—two heads are better;
                                                       how things swell and rush
To judgment; the hurly-burly of Moe and Larry; magisterial pomp, pratfallen.

 

Nimbus—see no, speak no evil;
                                                      how things brim and spill;
part and whole; the unmarked field over a field; pure radiance put to use.

 

 

 

Canticle of the Pine in her Garden

                                                                        for Dora Maar

Sunlit at sunset, washed in late summer dust
                                             splashed up from the valley,
            the pine is silent.

 

Blot on the star-pricked, star-smeared
                                            sky after midnight,
            the pine is silent.

 

They called you Picasso’s Magdalene, his Weeping Woman.
                                             After him, only God, they said you said,
Dora of the silent pine.

 

The cicadas’ choir loft, perch for the grief-voiced doves,
                                            unless the wind comes by,
            the pine is silent.

 

It leans against the sky, at ease with falling, with looking down—
                                           not only an image for the camera and canvas—
Dora’s silent pine.


Jennifer Atkinson is the author of three collections of poems, The Dogwood Tree, The Drowned City, and Drift Ice.  Her manuscript, The Canticle of the Night Path, was recently selected by Susan Stewart for the New Measure Poetry Prize.  The book is due out in fall 2012.  Atkinson teaches in George Mason University's MFA Program in Poetry.