Three Poems

It came for them as for us, straight
out of the box, requiring little construction.

On the kitchen table,
laminated with specks
and bordered in chrome
standing on aqua and blue-checked
linoleum, in a kitchen
enameled with Admiral
and Amana, ready as
a doll’s house, too.

It was not big, but ready
to expand with life
after the waiting.
Finally, they poured in the
sand, pink sands
outside the Fontainebleau
as we from Aruba, hot flecks
from beyond the veils
of our first mornings.

It’s a silly thing. Their
parents had one, too. But fun
to imagine, fun to do, fun
when the packet comes parcel post
and “fragile” it says, even though
we shake it like it
means to tell us, genie-like,
something we never knew.

Fancies scurry on the grains,
disappearing like dreams
into silica, setting up housekeeping
in the glass, according
to rules.

Did we, like you, seem to cast
aside such seeming boulders
ten times our weight, shoring balustrades
and hallways
with the busy business of such
young fools?

Or were they, the old ones as fascinating
on a night without cards,
with a model of a Windjammer
but no glue, to have watched it all go by
between the panes, the days
and hours, minutes only, known to the
nearly industrious few.

Now then, fleet ones, start anew.
Make your mistakes. Mingle
with genes that weren’t cut
to carry bits of leaf in a long
latitude, but bits of a heart
bit clean in two.

Pull the dragonfly’s wing
in opposite directions, let ambition
shiver as you ride it
in a drainbound deluge.
But first, enjoy

the symmetry of the glass,
hope’s rainbow
the still moment of freedom
the invitation to dig, the doing
what the fresh June morning
of marriage means
you were meant to do.

Later, when
this wistful
pair of windows
from the table, cracks
and leaks its intimate world
in sandy remonstration, or is emptied
in the yard of the busier world
and thrown to the barrel-men,
do not cry, you.

So it must. Accept the wrought wonder.
The amusement of toys.

The world is full of them.
The world makes more of them.
The happy world.

And the world fastidious,


                                 at Alexandria

The lighthouse stood
to seaward clouds,
highest of high and marblesque
when the world
was its own amusement park,
all flesh and horns
(before we came so gowned
and hazy blessed).
It winked across
a day of leagues
to biremes at Brindisium
where Phoenicians carted absinthe
out of port, and played their parallel
oars to a new moon
and Atlantis, heading west.

                                 at Babylon

The gardens spilled their
greens and forsythia
between deep cakes of alabaster
and golden steps. The slaves
would never leave here,
fearing paradise
was better seen and felt,
than desert-missed
and wept.

Daniel, splayed on a terrace
sipped orange juice
spilling the stream
on a maid’s breast, her skin
as brown as hazelnuts, delaying
his signatory madness,
his ungrateful, foreign
trust, for rest.

                                 at Olympia

Gaudy this Zeus, crowned in olive leaves
seated on cedarwood
hewn from forests by the Lethe—
Zeus the powerful,
profligate and mean, mocking
majestic, chryselephantine
stared doubters down
from a height of twenty men,
ivory in arrogance, stiff of victory
his staff all ebony, engorged
with gilt seed and the blood
of athletes, sacrificed
to the yawn of need.

                                 at Ephesus

Artemis, laid low by
a commandment, her house
by Goths, had dressed
herself from roof to floor
a block by block enchantment
full of fest, of flowing, late
Spring wine and roasting limbs
from fine
Ephesian flocks—

eleven naiads dancing round
the aqua of its font
passed with streamers through
the palisades, Ionic,
and through doors
without locks.

                                 at Halicarnassus

Mausolus! What
missing lexicon without
your grand, galvanic shoebox—
sepulchre of statues set under
Scipia’s chariot, horse
bound for twelve heavens
or eleven hells (after one
felled shot); your sister-soldier wife
who paid the artisans, placed
patterned gold in eyes and mouth,
cordoned the arch with roses
and forget-me-nots
then, fled her shining army
to the satins of your bed,
and died a slow-sung sadness
sentineled by ocelots.

                                 at Rhodes

At Rhodes they stood you
like a tart to open ocean,
balancing act better than
any circus, the surreal pointing,
defiance comical and doomed

from the start, but for fifty-six years
they shivered for your shadow
in the glint—
my too tall and none
too fat Colossus, too soon
you departed, for
shook into the dull ground
you are sold by Muslims
to a jolly Jew
and carted to Emesa,
quarry stone again,
discounted art.

                                 at Giza

All gone now, save the eldest
of the catalog, skinned by sand
but still it pins four points
to Ra— the Work, Wailing, Waste, Whim
surrounding and transfiguring an incest
that bore its isosceles sides
into stepping-stones of a god-king’s kin—
the lion-pet, with head undone
lays lime before in shifting dunes
curious, yet moribund;
it knows the answer of our
monuments to nothing;
but it questions not the importunity of suns
caught in endless, blinding apogee
of edifice, grandees,
slaughter and erasure
as faceless hands that carve and lever
lean in long outlasting of these eras,
every one.


Every time there is a new religion
they refurbish hell.

Of stucco, naugahyde and fire,
every imagination
drafts its misery in a contest
of climate and color,
ingenious in its appointments.

Cain, first inhabitant of the Semite god
had it good compared to the drover
who refused Muhammad his water.
But all things come
unto salvagers eventually.

New blueprint artists,
new carpenters.

(There are ironies: the suite of Caiaphas had a receptionist
but the calendar had no squares.)

Traverse just here
and the carpet is pulled up,
so trampled is it with betrayers large and small.
Marble tiles mined by Thracians
and polished by minor prophets
are inlaid across the expanded
foyer of judgment.

There, the desert motif,
locust wings and thorns.

Judas, loosed, walks round and round.
A portrait of Adam and Eve
is dimmed by a burnt backlight,
and Zoroaster’s candles drip
down rusted shafts.

Seventy virgins are waylaid
into wallpaper in the bungalows of purgatory.
The six arteries of Islam
are corrupted with dogs.

Three popes are there
in purple and cinnamon, still infallible.

Enough of this—
take down these pilings. Those red drapes.
We know we can do better.
It can all be fixed.

Heaven, meanwhile, is different than this,
I promise it is. The halls are permanent
there, made of choice impossible foams
and air, where the chaste and kind
may visit well within the essence of
their own small lives,
inevitably human though they are

and rare.

AL ROCHELEAU's work has appeared in more than forty publications in the U.S. and abroad, including Haight Ashbury Literary JournalNedge (with Edwin Honig), CHB Anthology (with Peter Meinke), Pig IronOuterbridgePennsylvania EnglishNeboSaharaRevelryIodine Poetry Journal, and Poetry Salzburg Review (with Virgil Suarez and Sue Walker). In 2004, he received the Thomas Burnett Swann Poetry Prize, offered by the Gwendolyn Brooks Writers’ Association. A manual, On Writing Poetry: For Poets Made as Well as Born, was published by Shantih Press in 2010. Al has lectured at various colleges and for writers groups, including the Florida Writers Association. In 2012, he founded and still directs the Twelve Chairs Advanced Poetry Seminars, a 180-hour, 30-seminar program available throughout the nation to private students of all ages. The program offers full scholarships to high school students, and it is accredited by the Florida State Poets Association. A Massachusetts native, Al has lived for more than thirty years in Orlando, Florida with his wife and family. 

The Adirondack Review
FALL 2016