Two Poems

David Starkey

 

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Finland

Yes, yes, it was beautiful in mid-winter,
I won’t deny it. Snow thick on the ground,
every limb of every tree rimed in white.
(The sound of ice is the sound of questions
the long dead have forgotten how to ask.)
The early sunsets were spectacular—
purple, blue and pale orange; the National
Romantic painters built their careers
on the light of two o'clock. The numbness,
too, that gripped one’s face was a kind of blessing,
a reminder that our mouths may one day freeze
in smile or grimace. That beauty, I won't
deny it. I am a postmodernist:
I will deny nothing that is true.

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Angkor Wat

In January, in Chicago,
when freezing winds
swirl back off Lake Michigan
or snow squalls down from Wisconsin,

I think of Cambodia,
the temples of Angkor.

As my children sleep and the heater
in the basement ticks and burns,

I feel the fire of morning sun
shining on the billion leaves,
the orchids and ferns and yellow grass.
Sunlight ripples across the virgins'
breasts, their full lips
and big stone teeth, across the bas-relief
of five-headed cobras, lions and demons.

As the last dim light on my street goes out
and my wife turns in our bed,

the sun arcs above a farmer
patiently whipping his ox.
His women slush through fields of rice.
A hint of humid breeze,
then shadows tumbling over blocks of stone,
over pink-blossomed lilies
floating in their sacred pools.

In January, in Chicago, there is nothing
but a long dull vista of commuting,
tasteless meals, gray snow and metal desks
beneath buzzing neon lights,

while the sun sets warm red
on the sandstone pavilions of Angkor Wat.
It yields its last warmth to the toppled headless gods,
to the soil that feeds
the vigorous roots of silk-cotton trees
and the tentacles of the strangler fig
which overturn the temple steps
and rip apart the towers.

 
 

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"Angkor Wat" was originally published in Hawaii Review

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David Starkey is a former resident of the Chicago suburbs and a former Fulbright Professor at the University of Oulu, Finland. His latest chapbooks are Fear of Everything, winner of Palanquin Press's Spring 2000 chapbook contest, and David Starkey's Greatest Hits (Pudding House, 2002).