Another Acrostic

By Peter Halstead

On the cutting edge
Of flattened sages,
A windy ledge
Of rushes rages;

Crisscrossed, prosaic,
They jut out stark
As Aramaic
Against the dark,

Archaic writing,
Cryptic, bright
Triptychs lighting
Showy night,

Forgotten hints,
Blizzards’ haste,
By snow erased.


In the word acrostic are cross, stick, and all the ‘ick’ rhymes. In its crossed sticks is the double cross of poetry. The tangled wet brush against the snow is a sort of jigsaw, where words tangle like twigs, and meanings are covered up in haste, the poems and even our own imprint, our fingerprints, being passing things. Like branches against the snow, poems are dark fingerprints.
The crossword linguistic mix of the poem’s language, its languid gauge, is an admission that language brings us to meaning, which then disappears back into nature, although having read a poem or having seen those tangled branches leaves behind a residue which in a way justifies us. Prose is the damning fingerprint on the blank page of a blizzard. But it changes nature nonetheless.
Like my poem, “Tabula Rasa,” the goal was mood, and, only secondly, meaning. Sound, and, only secondly, sense. Twigs waving on the snow resemble ancient Hebrew, the optics of Coptic, or Aramaic—archaic languages—and become the writing which is the prosaic poem, with its garters and its meanings crossed. Poems are the forgotten hints, the cryptic clues of word puzzles on the white, unsolved page, and also the raging quills of writers. The snow-covered sage sticks up in windy spots like a pentimento, like a painting underneath a painting, as sadness courses through the otherwise happy game of my acrostic tic.
This was written 9:07–11:09 AM, February 3rd, 2001, at our ranch, Tippet Alley, in Upper Lake Creek outside of Edwards, Colorado, and rewritten the next day. I redid it again on a brisk Paris afternoon while playing children echoed on the hard stones of the courtyard, not that any of that worked its way into the poem. Fall leaves in the Luxembourg Gardens, however, lay behind my poem earlier that day, “The Jump.”