Five Poems for America

The Handsome Man

Wilderness with Two Men

Not My Native Tongue

Letter to My Love







Heather Christle's poems bubble with surprising images and startling tonal changes; she keeps you moving through a landscape as bright and inviting as an arcade game. "Brochures have a thousand pictures and a thousand uses," and these poems too have their thousands, calling to mind the lapidary surfaces of Crane and Ashbery. The magnificence of these poems comes in a tiny car, and we all fit, like a compressed sandwich of rainbow-colored clowns. Christle's America is a three-ring circus, with its thrills and awe and a house of mirrors: look, you're taller than you ever thought.

--D A Powell













Can-can dancing just wonít stop
hurting its women.  France
is full of stories and women.
Once in Calais three women
lost their money and had
lunch later.  Dancing the can-can
shows resilience more clearly
than ever because women have
less money and less strength.
This sounds ugly but my legs
donít want much except
for clean pants and stuff.


No way is that cowpoke
bringing me home.  He wants
someone to fix his religion.
Believe me, I love religion
but heís too quiet when
heís praying.  Look, he left
and the bar left and the jukebox
fixed everything.  I love this
music and I love this land,
so empty of real trees and hymnals.


Charge! I said, but nobody
heard me, because they were all
listening to their mother, the iPod.
Their mother said a lot of stuff
I didnít hear.  Magnificence comes
in a small car, but we all fit.


Democracy stinks.  My classmates
elected the hamster.  Teacher
doesnít vote and canít change
anything.  Hamsters die all the time
for good reasons.  Once I was
a hamster who loved waterparks
but nobody ever knew.  Secrets
are also for presidents.
Teacher knows very little.


Northern states.  Eastern states.
Where are the armies?
One soldier means trouble.
Five soldiers make a party.
War never means much.
Letís bring the soldiers
somewhere they might like.
Letís go to Pizzeria Uno
and not eat anything.



















Walking through the forest I found you
strapped to a tree and half-fainting.
My god you were beautiful,
your sword sticking out like a sword.
Attempting to revive you, I strutted
around the tree seven times, in my
matchless squirrel coat.  You seemed
distracted, though, by the lepersí
parade as they lumbered by, singing
Oh woe is me, my feet are cold,
I cannot find my barrel.
I took off my coat and disguised
myself as a rooster with a cruel eye
and taxable plumage.  There you are, Manfred!
you said, as your bonds turned to vapor.
You tucked me under your arm
and set out to slay something, while I struggled
to take off your pants with my beak.


















Some of the trees looked like snakes
and it was dangerous to step on them.
We were going somewhere,
somewhere important,
and we were in love,
but not with each other.
We spoke with little smoke
signals we picked up
at a trading post,
but we were running
low on every phrase except
those concerning the weather,
so these were our words
for affection, hunger and loss.
At the mouth of the river
we had to part and reunite
with our enormous wives and families.
We divided up the supplies:
tin cans, rope, rocks
shaped like women,
lighter fluid and dice,
building two neat piles on either bank,
and then stood across from one another,
sending up the last of the signals.















Not My Native Tongue


I would love to undress you.
I suspect underneath
the zipper you are
no less than gold
that you emit a fat
bold light.  That in sleep
you curl up completely,
a red plastic fish.
Look at you flickering.
And it means you are stubborn.
It means you are constant.
It means your little dance.
If I spoke Russian, dearest,
I would say to you
From whom did you receive a letter?
Who was wearing a pretty dress?
Whatís new?  What does this word mean?
What are you writing?
What happened?
Nothing to live on.
I feel like sleeping.
You feel like sleeping.
We feel like going to the movies.



















Dear lord, you are no back-breaking orchid.
You will give that man your last dollar.
When I meet you, lord, I curtsy, chop and mitigate
the customs, and you, my muff-diving butternut
go whooping through the corridor like itís the last
day of summer and youíre Mr. Moneybags
reminding us all to tread sloppy water.
Lord, I saw the kettles gather in the stonefields.
I saw the mimiscus fall asleep.
When the masons shook their glory
from their bright and feathered hairdos
I turned away, lord, turned to see you
gallop down the highway.  Where were you
headed?  Even now, a light year
from that beating, I want to know.
















Brush off the annual evaluation meeting
and fly over Connecticut in a small
private plane.  I have no idea what that
feels like to you or to anyone.  Man
in the dining car, stop eavesdropping
on children talking about balloons.
You are too heavy for light aviation.
Best of all is the hovercraft, then you
can barely call it flying.  Go away,
often.  Visit London.  Visit aunts.
Brochures have a thousand pictures
and a thousand uses.  You could make
a travel room from your den, just

by stapling them to the lamps.
Only from the worldís flimsiest spots
will the light shine through.
















The trunkless tree was threatening me.  It hovered angry over the butchery, not even

a trunkís shadow, so arrogant and leafy I thought its redness was the skyís lashes

and there was no hope in it.  Someone said I think this tree is not real.  How can it do that?

How can you do that? he shouted at the tree.  Just stand there and say I am the tree?

and while he pleaded he stood beneath the tree where there should have been a trunk

and the tree shat upon him.  The neighbors said serves you right, you nuisance,

and someone else took a photograph of the man and tree in shadow.

The next day it was in all the papers, the red tree and its vertical line.

There were those who wrote what a magnificent trunk, it resembles a man.

This is a miraculous tree, a tree we should follow.  And the butchery

filled with flowers from well-wishers, smelling impossible to reproduce.

















Undoubtedly you contain an orchard
and in your young trees and your trees
which droop with lemons I am hiding
my muscular face.  I once built a pantomime
for William of Orange Ė it showed,
dancing, trapeze acts and startling
monologues a king lost in an orchard
not inside you, therefore colder, losing
crops and daughters to frost.
Ice canít grow inside you, but over
everything else a layer forms and the world
goes glassy and quiet.  You shatter opening
the car door, you pirouette through
bridge tolls, shaking up your orchards,
shaking down your lemons.  I wish
you could join me, peeking my head
from a barrel to watch the bright fruit
roll eagerly to the revival.