LOCUSPOINT: New Haven, March 31, 2009

Of her city, editor Suzanne Frischkorn wrote, “That poetry would bring me to New Haven and how often poetry would provide cause to return was a surprise. A number of poets stop in New Haven for readings and conferences. Some I catch up with over dinner or brunch, and some we entertain in our – now habitable – home. The city also provides fertile ground for new friendships.”

For this retrospective, Suzanne chose Margot Schilpp’s poem “Manipulating Time”:

Manipulating Time

So the sun’s apogee and the shiny windows
meet: ants die, carpets fade. If you look
closely, the glass is etched with fingerprints.
Everything is. Well, not everything:
the heart is slick, the brain, a mushy pod
that resists touch. There’s nothing like lucid dreaming
or a trip to the zoo. Once, in another town years ago,
we cheated at Rock, Paper, Scissors, before the charts
showed more elements to add—RPS 25—yes, rocks,
but also knives and guns, swords, mace, the higher
pitch of violence. It was before e-Bay, before all souls
walked around with ear-pods in little worlds
of their own making. You could greet someone
and they might speak. My attic is full of things
I’m saving for my daughters: their grandma’s
silver coffee service, a handmade silk stole, 50s furniture
they may not even like. I take back the years
by holding them in limbo: there you are, 1964,
a reindeer jumper with a jingle-bell nose. Hi, 1969,
and your Scottish doll with her eyes glued shut. I see you,
1976, hiding in my brother’s garish high school
graduation program. The things we kept
could all be trash by the side of the road, a kind of spell
against progress. Abracadabra. Turn yourself
into something useful again. At Chicago’s LifeGem
you can have yourself turned into a “memorial diamond”
to leave to those you love. They won’t be
in the Greenbrier bunker, which would have been full
of Senators had the story not been exposed
in the Washington Post. Where Congress will go now
is a mystery, and joins the list of many other mysteries:
why hypnosis sometimes look so real, how long
things will keep in the fridge, why the fashion
of leggings persists, and why the psycho bells across the street
ring on no schedule, but at random, in fits, a grand,
sonorous garland of bells and, combined with the hum
of lawn mowers biting back suburbia
to manageable wilderness, there’s just enough green
to allow us to believe we connect in some way
with the earth we use up, the land where antelopes
and bison, chipmunks, squirrels, turkey buzzards,
the laughable flamingo, the dog with popcorn-scented pads,
all exist in harmony and create a kind of music
that we sometimes hear, but don’t understand.
Skip forward. Step back. Straddle the best of that time
and this. All the noises we make and hear don’t cancel
the truest message hiding in our cells: you may have found
a lot of fancy ways to get there, but you’re still going to die.

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