the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Holly R. Appling


Only that a vase is broken—
Box corner dark and far,
Off-set spot-light conjures

A rose in water
Dead, spread across wood boards.
The last theatrical monster

Gathers glass pieces.
He is melancholy,
Still not yet asked to dance.

A plastic sword
Is stuck in a prop trunk
Stage-left, the quarrel an echo solo.

When an angel voice and cumulus
Enters, breath barely a snowflake, then
An impetuous

Lurch at it—what a beast! A gasp, please—
Pure white magnolias drop
From aureole locks,

A cosmetic dust
Burst and cough, cough—slight finger-tips
And noses become soft and shy,

Like sudden lovebirds—
Their dance floor faraway
In the storm, a floral over its surface.



A knight waits at the orchard gate.
He sits in his epic atop a metal horse:
Their silhouette is immense
Against a Gothic sky backdrop.

Slow shadow moves low beneath
Featureless dark cloud, dense
Thickets bend in like twisted coal fingers—
An antiquated chant lifts on stiff winds.

The knight and his horse were heroic—
Yet they steep in twilight alone:
No animal, mineral or flower remains,
Only decay and solitude nameless, save

For a quiet silver mane and gold bones,
For copper legs and nickel hooves.
The horse's tin suede is speckled
With fine bite wounds. He remembers

Each fang but could not twitch then,
Alloy muscles left static after
The last photograph and laughter.
So the knight files a pink fingernail.

He waits again, blasé and causal—
He coats his lips in blazing red.
His hair is wild, just as the fawns liked it,
Under a helmet thrust at gallant tilt,

As if to say he does not need it,
The armor, that is. Instead, he takes
Out a cigar and tastes its tip—
He wants to ride but at each kick

There is a spark and short-circuit.
The reigns only click, then stick—
Not one nerve or limb moves an inch.
With each passing solstice, he panics.

Finally, the on-call architect arrives.
She expertly unhooks the chest
Latch and peers inquisitively
At the equestrian engine. She begins

Simply with a soft temple scratch and hum…
She bends low, then blinks and blows
Trinkets and sand from rock crooks,
Squints in for a finer look and tightens

Shell pulleys and weak seaweed strings.
With precision, she screws in quick
Coral rivets and harpoons a shark piston.
She tinkers until the tide comes in.

Then she exhales and steps away:
A job well-done. As she clasps scaled
Palms together, her fin begins
To show through. She must go—

The horse and its rider are classically
Placed back onto the long marble mantel.
The figurine looms translucent
In the crackle of embers, the ceiling

A spring sky flooding in with blue.



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