PROEMS FROM A GONE WORLD: THE EARLY PROSE AND POETRY OF AMOS STOLTZFUS



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Pointe-a-Pitre (French West Indies)


particular sounds have become familiar
   markets, motorbikes, the clock tower
but at ten o'clock the street is too quiet
starving black dogs drift past in ragged files,
   death messengers dispersed from the center of town
   their tongues hang out; their eyes are
     narrow, sickened
mothers carry garbage down to the gutter
   across from the Palais de Justice dogs are
     sleeping on the steps of St. Peter's Cathedral

you go into the street, stumble, look up
   you catch a glimpse
you pass her room, brown cloth swatches
   you recognize the eyes

earlier there were bats, flitting like swallows
   through the half light, from the balcony
over the park, the dark comes quickly, over fishermen and secretaries
earlier the brothers were chanting paternosters
   behind the high walls, down in the gardens
   dogs and monks under the shadow of the cathedral,
  waiting for visions and mysteries
aeons ago celestial warriors tore off a corner of Paradise,
     flinging it to earth . . .

in the cafe at ten o'clock, the swarthy men
     are playing at checkers
   you go into the street and are alone
   you step down, you are isolated, timeless
     this is your own corner
ten o'clock, everyone is weeping
   I want to be there, to go, to see, to ascend

we have all drawn crazy scenes as children
   not that the pictures get any better
gutter noises; cockroaches scuttle over stones
   this world has broken too many people

in your own glass the eyes look forgotten
in the center of the city the cathedral watches
   like a mother over all her wandering sons

--Amos Stoltzfus



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stale beer


rust on the fifth floor fire escape
   (through the window you watch the lovers at work
   on their tired mattress --
    they struggle
     they sweat
      they are still)
     harmony
a groan hovers in the air like a curse
     you flip a coin
what does it mean to make a choice

--Amos Stoltzfus



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wet afternoon


Hush
   is the word that comes to mind
a soft whir of mist in the leaves
   slow whisper of tires on wet paving stones
    sibilant hints of last night's voices
     back in my mind

     still . . .
perhaps it is the word as I turn over to eye the pale green light
   pale green light of a Saturday afternoon
    that seems intent on slanting through the blinds
     of my window

--Amos Stoltzfus




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