By Peter Halstead

Maybe just because their spindles burst
Exuberantly from a spiral spine, overdone
Moroccan lace dressing every line, immersed
And honeycombed with Persian sun,

Do these leaflets seem almost too
Well-versed, minarets foreshadowed
By each other's thirst, streaked bamboo
When, beneath each node,

The DNA of light weaves in
And out like Escher stairs,
Leaving labyrinths where thread had been,
Layered by a hand that copies theirs.

Honolulu Library
August 8th, 2005


Having spent a morning writing in the Moorish courtyard of the Honolulu Public Library, up on the balcony where a reader, in the best tropical carrel tradition, nests in the hearts of the courtyard palms, I was struck with the cross-hatched shade and shadow play that make palms a constant chiaroscuro. I also wanted to say something about the greatness of Arab culture during its assimilative heyday.
Resembling spiral DNA helixes, palms are structured a lot like people, their whirligigs turning over on themselves like stairways in Escher paintings.
The metaphor of Penelope weaving a world (or poem) for Ulysses, as Wallace Stevens saw it, here becomes the world palms weave for us. The poem is also a defense of writing as ornate as Moorish architecture in a minimalist age. Its nouns refer equally to books and fronds.
Theseus left thread behind so he could find his way out of the Minotaur’s labyrinth. Poems leave labyrinths in place of the initial thread of emotion and logic that directs the miniature toreador.
The poem rhymes on its outside in Petrarchan sonnet form, as well as inside with an equal, if more hidden, metric length. Meanings are added to meanings as younger fronds build on earlier branches, the way a poet copies nature, the way what we see copies something we don’t see.