Juliet Patterson



Three fish lie on a plate
in front of an open window

on the balcony
through which we can see

a path leading to a gate
surrounded by trees.

Linden next to elm
next to chokeberry and so on.

Clouds are swept across the sky.
Today is an apparent day

of empty sleeves & shadows
& red meaning red & red

instead of your finger
painted, ruby-nail, dice

on the point of a needle.
The eye picks, pricks.

Light is failing us,
the white

china & silver earring
& salted herring.



My window's full of shoreline gone
& gulls, who slide the glass, suddenly

showing white against the disordered
kelp lashed to a piling at the wharf's

head. Yarrow & sage, bergamot
soaks the postcard, a leaf beetle

arrested in the frame of a postcard
stamp, a barren sky & your Wisconsin

script; field & skyline moving
as the hills slowly do

here down invisible tiers
into the sea. Where you are, goldfinches flit

through thistle, slip the margin & grain,
a seedhead unmoors its unorthodox scent:

clover cut & arranged on the sill.
The house is empty.

Here, where burning candles hover
around the border of a porcelain tub, pigeons

on the rooftop turn. Then, a hammer rings
down Henry Street & out the window

a bird is ripped down
by a shot.



A slash of blue
Asphalt / colorless
Again the cry that
But she is / a stranger yet
By the time you read this
Coming late, as always
Dear Alexa
Dear Alexa / I could / send you
Dear Alexa / I would / have liked
Dear friend / I regret to inform you
For love we all go
I'll send my / own two answers
Many times loneliness
No words / ripple like
The things of which we want
The proof of those we knew before
There is another loneliness
We meet no stranger, but our self
We had not expected it
When I hoped / I feared / When I feared / I dared—
Where we / owe but / a little
You must let me / go first




BALCONY WITH FISH / Ancillary listening/reading: Permanent Red by John Berger, Annals of Chile
by Paul Muldoon, and Beck's Sea Change

NEW YEAR'S EVE: When I wrote this poem I was reading a lot of Jack Gilbert and Heather McHugh and was visiting one of the most beautiful cities in the world; San Francisco. I sent picture postcards from North Beach & started thinking about the strange translation of place through the medium of postcard & the power of what might have well been a Lorine Niedecker kind of mantra: condense, condense, condense.

INDEX OF FIRST LINES / Ancillary Readings: Emily Dickinson's Intimate Letters to Susan Huntington Dickinson, Dean Young's poem, "If Thou Dislik'st What Thou First Light'st On".