Dawn Marie Knopf

Quagga Mussels

Out from his bombazine from out
his powder blues he says Bauhaus

swims along its vertical slant lines

the most elegant wedge in a canyon
the most grace in a Hoover turbine

the night he yells I maybe love him

& she & he & she said you
didn’t love him last night she takes

his fedora like that one in Fitzgerald

wears it like one black rimmed tire
tipped faulted & one-eyed over her rouge

tells us for years & years even more mussels

find themselves borne in the penstocks
crowding the great flow of the Colorado

of the pronounced thee greatest

reclamation ever known & the dam
will boilover in seven maybe ten

years & how a worker on the upper

cofferdam wrote the president who must
have been Coleridge or Coolidge how

he couldn’t get it up due to carbon poisoning

on the job & how let’s say the paid favor
libertine in the employ no let’s just say

maiden got on the stand & swore this is total

slander & said who the hell is he fooling
he whom was my most most regular

Good Friday

Soldiers sat before each crucifixion (rolled
dice for her clothes (seven & eleven were the losing

rolls of that era known as the Benevolent Era))

your kind sat waiting not gambling an odd
ear turned toward the hits station (how you roll)

under her ballerinas would sing pleas

for more pas de bourrée from their hollow doll
throats & then also take care of each other

after I am in the ground you read & reviewed

very favorably yet frankly an act
of collective nostalgia (not the guide for guerilla

gardening you thought you bought) & recall

so distinctly her address: I speak
for all of us when I say you are the Minister

of Everything from your chair (you command

who lives (& dies)) you wear right-wrong judge robes
borne with the pattern its notches pre-cut


The first recorded mention
of the do-good woman is this

mention then later in Book

of Fixed Stars then later Magellan
in a more believable history

claims her as the Large Magellanic

Cloud & then also by a forged
& forgiven Vespucci as three

Canopes two bright and one

obscure while obscure describes
the smaller starcloud called

Coalsack the fifth mention

is in a soul song the chorus
of which can be translated

roughly as half-truth is not

truth in our less common
dialect which stunned & nagged

us into poor appetites eczema

low bone density & the shakes
when we learned how little

we knew of the fragment

when the books of the Inland
Empire spread their pulp

across our apartments’ common

courtyard where she smoked
under the patio umbrella


Few admit we’ve limped but

one mile from the typing pool
but as one of our heroines

sits small in the stairwell of the Edwardian

& the light fails she is still lucid
I saw her I tell you she’s real & young

her birthstone ring over white

communion gloves & when her lips
parted for the wafer the trains

stopped on their tracks to wait out

the time change we see the young
intimidate the old listen

to us stutter with embarrassment

we will be judged by how well we cradle
our own shame & rust

something approaching the stench

of the drycleaner’s soiled breath
we should do something while she’s alive

or maybe dead either way

she is just a girl for we are not
our bodies but a diorama of our bodies

the bills reach out to an empty wallet

the length of five paces or one mile
depending on how you measure it