Margaret Ross

 

Margaret's Photo in BW

 

(USA)

 

 

 
IN PARTS UNKNOWN

 

Then any sense of where we were

gone. Then gulls like paper

angels sat on their masts

for a while. Foam on the water

laced maps whose every route

unraveled. “Then” unraveled. Routes

retraced as frothing monsters

sketched in the margin by faith

that fear took forms men had

devised for it. Where

 

does the time go? Steered by

balancing his thoughts

against imagined ground, in this

way holding it steady

open-winged as beech

 

moths pinned to carry home

for evidence. Faith sailed

on white silk panels of a dress

she wore the day he left

whispering Imagine that

 

you are already coming home

to me. If not angels, then specimens

of lichen pressed inside

my book imprinting wingspan

silhouettes against the words “appeared

 

to me in an excess of mind, in a

dream, before the doors” in fainter colors

than nightjars outside this window

carried by wind towards trees

tall as ships. Not only hours

 

but miles can be rigged

like this to vanish under cell phone

towers extinguishing the ground

you would be forced to cross

to speak with me

 

face to face. There isn’t time

enough. Make the proof yourself.

Each grain is the head

of a nail pinning nothing to

nothing, by which I mean holding

 

the time up. That ticking is

just static. The clock is waiting

to ring. The shore they reached

finally was sifted grain

from their dreaming

 

eyes. Can you hear? I’m saying

I believe every step: five girls

in white leotards climb into

a tall-case clock. The door

is shut. The clock is spun around. Then

 

a small boy pushes

the pale face out. And the glass

case where the gold spines swing

he pushes it out. Sets these

parts on the stage. Then seeing

 

the spare wood frame

is hollow, slender as a wrist

on every side, a door, or, “Here begins

the Book of Visions. Imagine that

you are on the road to Paradise.”

 

 

(originally published in Fence)

 

 

 

ANTARCTICA

 

holds the most honest

ceremony, rite for the literal

mind that abandons etiquette in hope

of sacrament, then confronts Antarctica,

a far more accurate bride that is always

 

the bride arrested

halfway down the aisle

by some check in thought

a watching congregation holds its breath

to outwait: reservations opaque as tiered white

 

skirts above

her borrowed blue slip

suspend a white-out rendering

observers shadowless. Aspiration

is thinner than air. You can hardly

 

breathe there. Is

a cost of the climate

even a temperate ambition

can afford if you repeat it for

effect, like layering coincident

 

thin veils of ice

until small life below

can no longer be made

out through them: I am

just going outside. Say it

again. Say it

when you don’t

try to move from the chair

you are reading in. I am just

going to wander off again. How

 

long a day is

when the day won’t

end. Where insects have six

eyes to match suns multiplied in packs

of dogs, new ice calves are announced

 

by gunshots

glaciers fire as they split. Towards

spires brittle and specific as dreams

dreamt in sunlight, the Queen’s men

cast gold sovereigns to the floes, keeping only

 

those verses

they already knew

by heart on light-as-feathers

pages torn from the also discarded Book

of Common Prayer. “Slept the night before,

 

hoping not

to wake; but he woke,”

wrote Captain Scott, “It was

blowing a blizzard. He said, ‘I am just

going outside and may be some time.’ He went

 

out into

the blizzard and we have not

seen him since.” You have to

hold a compass vertically, even

with the sun to keep its needle from hysterical

 

wavering as you

cross the magnetic

pole. The constant shifting

influence is what to follow

tolled from clockwork minarets

 

of ice. They

point the day out

to itself from an opposite

night that is the southernmost

perihelion to here. “Is this ambition?”

 

Andrée asked

from a balloon that briefly

carried him towards the never before

reached by air North Pole. From far below

he seemed suspended by a bubble in the cheap

 

champagne whose name

remembers him. It is just

a coincidence. I know the

 

of ice. They

point the day out

to itself from an opposite

night that is the southernmost

perihelion to here. “Is this ambition?”

 

Andrée asked

from a balloon that briefly

carried him towards the never before

reached by air North Pole. From far below

he seemed suspended by a bubble in the cheap

 

champagne whose name

remembers him. It is just

a coincidence. I know the

pop of a cork sounds nothing like

a gun if you’ve actually heard one, but

 

nevertheless admit it is

arresting: the neck of the just

opened bottle is dark and slick and has

a highlight pointing up its length to the mouth

from which thin smoke rises like steam off ice.

 

 

(originally published in Colorado Review)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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BIO

Margaret Ross‘s first book, A Timeshare, was selected by Timothy Donnelly for the 2014 Omnidawn Poetry Prize. A graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, her poems have appeared in Boston Review, Conjunctions, Fence, and The New Yorker. Her honors include fellowships from the Fulbright Program, the Breadloaf Writers’ Conference, Yaddo, and Stanford University, where she is currently a Stegner Fellow.

 

 

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