the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night


Spring 2013



Ned Balbo

Echo of One

Inspired by Trakl's "Im Roten Laubwerk Voll Guitarren…"

I hear guitars: echo of one
inside a local church, the chords
uncertain, like their maker's words.
She's practicing this afternoon.

No hurry—no one's joined her yet.
Out here, there's hardly any noise.
Alone for now, she tunes her voice,
unsure who's listening, or not,

accompanied by six taut strings
that ring against a mortared wall,
stained glass, altar and cross, the hall

where, soon, a priest will take the bread
that she'll receive—as I once did—
and break it in the shape of wings.


Harlequin and Charlatan

Inspired by Apollinare's "Crepuscule"

The dead cast shadows on the grass
and makeshift stage…The harlequin,
whose costume called for our attention,
turns, disrobed, as if to bless

the darkness with her nudity.
The charlatan who watches her—
companion, co-conspirator—
speaks with a certain crudity,

but carries on his ritual
of spells for those who cannot see,
from where they sit, how cautiously
she braids her own dark ponytail

across one shoulder…Soon, applause
invites more magic in the fire
of torchlight. Who will disappear
between the next and final pause?

He turns: she's not there anymore.
—Twilight's the time when hours shift
from what will come to all that's left….
Night's backstage, waiting at the door.


A Greater Power

Controlling One-Color Prayer Candle: used
to manipulate people and surroundings.

—"Original Botanica" catalogue

I don't know how to work the spell, although
the candle's mine: bright yellow wax that fills
a cylinder of clear glass, clouds of bubbles
pressed to the inner surface where they cooled,
preserved until such time that liquid smoke
goes streaming from the wick…What will it do?
In blue ink on the glass (strokes etched to form
a picture on the candle) is the word
CONTROLLING and, below, two living things:
a man, shirtless (some lost soul like the rest
of us, no doubt) in anguish, on his knees,
stuck in a web, while just above him glares
the spider (widow) balanced on the strands
that hold them both…I'll light it now, and see.



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