Joan Walsh Anglund

By Peter Halstead

         Language, always language, just to hide
Behind. Idyllic winds, purple haze.
Gorse and bracken, where cows
May safely graze. Fields slide down
Like giant marshmallows, magnetic prows
Pasted on the fridge, and everywhere
The flax of poppies, flocking
Through the air like snow.
         Only children, girls with braided hair
As live as sun, live here, rays
Dancing through the grass,
Girls and their gnarled keeper,
Bent like twigs, dazzled always
By the Christmas gauze of trees,
Gumdrop canopies and trunks
Of twisted straws.
         But one day, seeping out
Of the collage like mice,
Come the thugs. Deep,
Bent on horrors in our candied sleep,
They lurch from house to house,
Intent on vice.
         The handyman, slow, invisible,
Walks among them, hands full,
And, in each house, without ado,
Steel is driven through,
The bodies interred by the calico girls
Without a word. From a quilt
Of soil grow ferns of spring,
Mottled follicles of guilt.
         A few stern women come
To ask of love, suspicious of our widespread
Youth; nothing shows above
The corpse-strewn truth but
The flowers of the dead.
         Is this a metaphor for rhyme,
Saving simple paradise from men?
Is it reprehensible, saccharine,
Just outright black and white,
Or does salvation lie in sin,
The counterpane of dark and light
That covers sides and tops
With graphic stapled stars
And asterisks, to pretty up
The pagan insides of the spot?
Do we dare give in to dreams,
Those sad and moral tales
Of rolling dales and hills
Where cutout figures swirl
And wheel, stiches of an ancient lie,
Hot balloons of girl-
Filled reels of film by which
We live and die?