Ann Power

The Eyeglasses

Awry, piled anyhow, the lenses, in a tumble of wire frames,
look in all directions, all-seeing, omniscient, to remind that
they never forget.

They see:
the streaming masses climbing from stifling boxcars,
then sorted into groups for work, the young and able…and annihilation,
the elderly, children, the infirm;
the confiscated suitcases once hopeful in their journey;
the shoes pointing in every direction but never to take one further step;
the cooks mixing rotting vegetables into a stew to starve the weary.

They see:
the resignation, the holiness, the anger;
the gaunt, emaciated bodies, eyes ghostly, staring at a world unrecognizable;
the rows of toilets, nothing more than crap holes, the constant diarrhea;
the prisoners washing without soap, with dirty water, in a rehearsal
of humanity.

They see:
the unholy, bizarre, and cruel medical experiments
the sterilizations, the botched drug trials,
the examination of extreme temperatures on the body;
the dwarfs, the twins, closely studied, trembling with fear,
the unnecessary amputations, the infection of wounds, lumbar punctures;
the priests exposed to malaria, skin diseases; and finally
the phenol injections, the penultimate blessing, followed by the autopsies.

They see:
the gas chamber filling with clouds from poisonous, blue-tinted pellets
of Zyklon-B, the consummate Bayer product, released from canisters,
dropped through four openings in the ceiling of the chamber,
the wretched bathers, inhaling the gas with its bitter almond smell,
screaming as they suffocate, the more agile climbing the brick walls
with bare hands, nails dug into the resistant stone clay;
see the crematorium, with ovens burning night and day, consuming
the bodies of the dead,
workers pushing trolleys replacing the ashes of the old body
with a new corpse ready for incineration;
and other workers spreading the ashes in the field behind the ovens or
dumping them in the still waters of the ash pond.

taken from eyes that once they focused, eyes that will not see any more,
the broken, mangled glasses, unwilling witness to horror,
with their fixity, intensity,
see the odd blossom beside the fence that hurries to bloom as if ashamed
of its exuberance.


End Game

I remember the beginning: black, and white, and
black, contrapuntal squares, polished in exactness defined
by strict lines, ordered by rules.

Always the game began with me as pawn, Queen of Pawns,
a deliberate game—no green invention, the madness not my own.

I remember running to stay in place like Alice until my
cloak caught on a startled thorn; then anesthesia’s jagged mouth.

Suddenly the dimensions changed: the board lengthening
unsteadily to the pale horizon’s limits, the pattern profligate,
endlessly repeated, as if a mathematician’s cipher
had multiplied the possible.

Astonished, I saw gardeners pruning sunlight, and heard the
sound forsythia makes.  A rhino in histrionic plaid balanced
a castle tower, while a weeping bishop hoisted a gold thurible:

incense, in sense,
incense, in sense.

With wedding hoops everywhere, a stranger…no…a consort,
familiar as you, stepped out of monarchy’s one square
and smiled.


The Obsession

Kept noon
keeps watch,
is always exact, on time, all the time,
as a gnomon perpetually points
the hour—
its blazing glare—
in a garden
where a strange neume
constantly rephrases
itself in the melody of breath,
in the heat of afternoon.

Oars set inexorably toward destination
struggle against grey-green ocean.

In absolute order, in regular arrangement
vast quadrants define a hunting park filled
with fragmentary interludes, a living mandala with
pavilions and couches, stone watercourses
and fountains. 
The garden’s lushness contradicts the hour.
Somehow it is always now; it is always noon.

Eyes shift the horizon from distance to depth.
On the horizon, only the depth of eyes.

Exotic flowers bloom.  And the roses in luxuriant
abundance fill the air with their petal scent. 
Cypress trees encircle an ornamental pool whose 
fish hide in the shadows of rushes. 
On the marble bench, no lovers embrace.
This is not history nor is it dream only a stage
to say the single thing in an odd juxtaposition. 

While the king paints seascapes for a living,
the poet plants a moon garden of sweet alyssum,
angel’s trumpet, and night blooming jasmine near
his favorite wild plum.

Central, the neon icon, desire, blares
its adhesive light,
stern glue,
allows but small departure from
intensity, fixity.

Enamored of eyes, the castle’s dwarf opens
an optical shop, grinds lenses for his frames. 
His latest line “Yseult.” 

Mental eye, metal eye,
drawing into its ragged depths
the image beyond infatuation,
placates itself with a
circular thought.

Tintagel’s bar serves only ale,
closes at noon.

Escape, an intolerable intrusion,
welcomes return to the intractable grasp
across a trackless land;
there a
gnomon points perpetually
kept noon.

© Ann Power

Ann Power is a retired faculty member from The University of Alabama where she worked as coordinator for the Bibliographic Instruction Program, University Libraries.  She enjoys writing historical sketches as well as poems based in the kingdoms of magical realism. Her work has appeared in: The Pacific Review (CSU, San Bernardino), The Puckerbrush Review, Limestone, Spillway, Gargoyle Magazine, The Birmingham Poetry Review, The American Poetry Journal, Dappled Things, Caveat Lector, and other journals.   

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