CARYL PAGEL

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Hatch (First Song)

The Farm

Wild Wall

Picture

The Fox

Slown Site (Both Sides of Glass)

Motion to Treasure

The City

 

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What you’ll find, fellow reader, on attending to Caryl Pagel’s poems, is not comfort. Nor beauty if beauty is ease. Nor confession if confession absolves guilt, and in so absolving guilt, makes of the poem a particular use. These are not poems to be used. Nor are they poems that refuse use—that is, in cleverness shift shape in your hand, so that what you thought was a hammer ends up being a moth, a moth ends up being a rag, a rag made of taffeta . . . and so on through the whimsy endemic of our particular poetic age. Caryl writes, as you’ll soon see, in old form: Eclogue and Apostrophe. Nor does Caryl seek archaic voicing as a means to escape the deep crisis of contemporary poetics. She writes in the form and the voice she does to unveil difficulty, to approach it, to be responsible to it. Here is a poet not self-vaunting, and more challenging, in her compulsion toward self-accusation—the poet accusing herself of the persona of one who writes poems!—not self-coddling, not holier-than-thou, striking against her humility as hard as she strikes against her pride. 

 

What I’m trying to say is that reading Caryl’s poems is a distinct privilege—for hers is a poetry that attends to difficulty in difficult ways. This is not an intellectual exercise, nor an emotional purging. Caryl’s poems don’t trust themselves, nor does the speaker trust herself. She senses poems do work, do some kind of work, but never assumes that her poems are doing such work, or that if they do, never assumes the work once done stays done. One feels in Caryl’s work that the only answer is to read the next poem—to trust that the effort of making meaning, of sowing meaning, of raising and razing meaning, never accomplished in any single poem, builds into an accumulating whole that does profound good . . .

 

The good of attending to a poem that attends to itself attending to the world. A bit of a riddle, yes—but what strives toward clear truth that doesn’t begin in such riddling complexities? One should—I do—feel grateful for the clarity carved from such honest confusion. And I learn from the refusal to take refuge in that clarity.

 

--Dan Beachy-Quick

 

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HATCH (FIRST SONG)

 

 

 

Must have choked—

 

shocked

outside the craggy shell

 

exotic sounds

 

faint whir of dawning

 

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Wonder each song its direction

 

 

its stake in

self— sent out from the throat

 

a cord to loop

around the earth and back—

 

imprisoning its owner

 

 

 

What can be captured with a call

 

Listen

now that we’ve broken free

 

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The position of each note

 

fluttering or tremulous

along a chord

 

makes sad tremendous sounds

 

 

 

 

A strangle

 

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What can be wasted

 

What cannot be contained

 

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Inside the shell

no noise coherent

 

 

 

Meanings may not change

 

they will lie

 

in many versions

outside the shell

 

wild wind rustles and wakens sigh

 

Silence the gift

 

 

The gift or the gift’s limit

 

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Kept we look farther

 

learn songs

 

to bury

so once through blue walls we can burst

 

again in trilling reach

 

 

 

 

Call it disclosure

Call it surrender

 

Push open to call and lose something

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FARM



Every day we pass by
the cows stand
sturdy— propped

against the sky. I see them.
I see them whispering
little. They are cued

by unheard signs.

We move out to the farm
never

having lived
because the land, you say
is an introduction.

And, an excuse.
My cards read we
are acting

in a time of general
rest. If I believed in anything
it would not be

written. Look
how corn becomes my filler.

The field pours forth falsely

as a mouth I want to dig
out of the earth. As seeds
for a sustainable word.


A few lines
are incomparable with
crows that slowly lasso

clouds— narrowing the distance—
to an unsuspecting meal.
How is one so hungry

patient? These things only
the work
will teach us. We must load

our guns silently.

We won’t have much

to share unless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WILD WALL



Co-producer you are
of this junk-yard
assemblage; this pieced up po-
poor stage. If I write
you wanna star me? Wanna risk it
put me center? You work curtain.
I'll spill big bad lies so sweet
to have 'em sobbing.
Off go gold wretched lights:
Clap-clap-clap.
I take a bow
and then a secret bow for fooling.
No one ever knows
because I am monster
I mean master masquerader.
Sometimes comes the dark wig,
others the worn torn
dress. I don a thrilling front.
No costume. No tone change, dirty
style. I've got my big eyes.
And a story.
Watch this gesture drive me
mad all the time.
Only way to let it out
is false, so word I formed you
to mask me. Word, I ask
you perform in place.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PICTURE

 

 

 

I’m framed

in a flowered sundress—

yellow wings strapped

 

to my arms.

Kneeling. Calm-

faced. Pressing one ear

 

to rippled rings

on a fresh split-open log.

From that angle

 

I cannot read

your expression

so I stare up

 

at camera’s

lens. You gaze

down checkered-red

 

behind me—

an axe swung back

and aiming

 

wild. At my neck.

My fragile fruitless head.

For the good

 

of growing more we

must be rid of

what can’t thrive. You said cut

 

the lesser lines

to let the strong ones

carry on. We came out here

 

together

to figure working

out. The picture

 

snapped too soon: watch

my body

flailing— still.     

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FOX



Two shades of shadow meet
at night
on forest's edge. One pitch

black, ending
abruptly in gray where light
from the farmhouse spreads. Here,

I wait- before the light-
staring straight across
the grounds. I hear

a scratching: you,
in your bright home
working hard

to make a mark. The farm
a greater lesson
in laws unnatural-

unnatural but worth
a struggle outside the city.

Time spent in the wilderness

to pacify a wildness.
I make a motion, crackle
coop's floor

and then the forest.
You come to the window, look
across the field

directly into my eyes. You see
a double reflection, know not
how to save. No matter.

I've killed already
all the chickens-
ate one, left the rest

a brutal mess. Aught I have let
your stock live on?
Now you won't have much

to share- unless you learn
a quick defense. In my jaws
I grind the bones of your income,

run back into the woods. Out here,
when hungry night illuminates:
there is no private property.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SLOWN SITE (BOTH SIDES OF GLASS)



Of a strung V some lose out
lost- left jagged

breaking crumbs then falling
silent

The new birds balance on a grate behind the window
They clack into the season



What kind of birds?

There is no way of finding out
things as you think of them

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Quiet folds up sleeping wings

while nature repeats
through distant heavy tremors-

heart-placed heart

empty room

glance to build a runway

You stay routing glass
Wait perched up in the frame





just to hear the egg fall

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It has been a year of barely breaking


Outside
phantoms search for sight
Edges the only left over


What answer
first rejected the shape of a sound



Open the window
Flight out by call


Every sound still returns

in echo

till it turns

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Who can help the nesting
the going-getting by

when there are so many frames we've never seen through




Where are you in place

Balanced on the wire- watching flutters vein the distance
reflection shock inside


The image poses


Shows there are all these reasons to be less sorry
strangers


Live on less secretive sides

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You only bury the bodies
The bodies bury the beaks

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From this transparent slate
all noise comes doubling back

No sense- just static
and reduced refractions-

talking right up to

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both sides of glass



Who would you be
if not forever standing by?


A louder open window
Clack-clack in their abandon



It is time to shell the bone


It is time to shell the bone

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Someday you too will fade away
with all this hearing
and end as what is unspoken in this unspoken

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MOTION TO TREASURE

 

 


All right to tip

the shoddy boat

 

over 

walk blank

 

planks or dive

straight off

 

this wrecked

rocking failed-sail

lately labeled

poem. Stuck

 

at surface without 

both oars

 

I splash around 

half-hearted

 

as the floats are pinned

to shore.

 

Unbearable

loss— lines

 

caught in the muck—

my mind

 

a field

just drowned.

 

If ship was sunk

I'd take it— at least

 

there'd be some death.

Some hero.

 

A bottle

aiming home. Pity

 

light

at bottom give

 

me little-shine

to sink for.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE CITY

 

 

 

Guess with me

at horizon’s tell: no

clear view between buildings

of the red sky at night—

 

in my sketch for you

of the city: place I need                           

relief from. Lately,

this well-tread ground

 

sprouts little; streets

glazed with ice too thin

for support. In hindsight,

the hurried birds

 

we watched return

seems an omen. A gesture

of what I’m just learning.

Come spring

 

these piles better melt—

fill a block

with their ink

causing structures to rise up

 

float away. Prepared,

you’ve started to pack.

I am already on the top deck

of a large boat, teasing out

 

the surge. Within me

monstrous waves sway.

Strung of silver nerves

they push far

 

from any shore— soak

my purpose deep

with warning. I write

in my poems I will never arrive—

 

this far out

you cannot read. My words

open only in the motion: a bottle

mouthing caution to the sea.