September 09, 2007


      Palatial hunger, poor dear and heart’s love--alas--
when January lacerates the soul, to what
will you resort? Another’s room? And dreams
of Azores, after? Who will hear your riddles--
endless--out?--the desolating nights--snow after snow?
. . . As for our acrobatics, scarce to be believed . . .
      Take these apparitions
and your temporary laughter--or pour champagne at a vulgar rate . . .
      It’s enough I am in your arms, brief welcomed guest,
breasts bared to endless promises, perfumes.

—Jane Satterfield

Mercenary Muse is a homophonic translation of Baudelaire’s “La Muse Venale.”

from Assignation at Vanishing Point (Elixir Press, 2003).
first appeared in Elixir.

Posted by dwaber at 04:00 PM

September 08, 2007


For years my father’s bag stashed in the car “boot”
leather worn raw, this side of suede,

packed and ready in case--flight suit,
polished boots, an instant combat kit

signed, sealed, to be delivered due east--
the border, the base, the last battle left.

How it hummed, the air, with imminent action,
our house under the flight path, weekend

war games, the enemy out there--
always expected and just within reach

through cross hairs and radar screen.
And though it seemed unique to our age,

apocalypse now--blackout, bombardier,
passage of flame (the use of stock photos

is strictly forbidden)--really, what’s different?
Just our hands on the switch? In the old

dream of empire, in late afternoon, the story
the child saint raced into, a covert host in his cloak,

is simply a case of street violence and the body
sent into the streets--stand-in and look-out--

a shape divested of meaning. And the blows
coming down until you see you have to forego it,

reason, the right explanation, plot whispering
Did you deliver? What can be reached?

—Jane Satterfield

Instant Combat Kit During the Cold War, personnel in airlift
squadrons stationed at Andrews Air Force Base were required to sustain
military preparedness even when off duty. In the event of a national
security threat requiring sudden mobilization, squadrons could be instantly
dispatched to an unnamed base at the edge of the “free world.”

Catholic schoolchildren are often taught stories (probably apocryphal)
of youthful martyrs who carried the Eucharist from one Christian community
to another in the days of the Roman Empire, meeting their death in the
streets as a result of their refusal to give over the emblem of their faith.
from Assignation at Vanishing Point (Elixir Press, 2003).
first appeared in Massachusetts Review.

Posted by dwaber at 10:13 AM

September 07, 2007


In my time I have had to flee twice.
As I fled I knew what I was running from and why.
I was standing at the window of a train watching the platform
sail past me, thinking of the morning’s friendly telephone call,
our own clumsily crafted lives.
Who could have guessed the content of my days, whispers,
guesses, real life omitted, just faint glimmers here & there, a hint
of it, some sign, some future which was never to be--
Residue of sleepless nights, little squares of the parquet floor--
my daughter, I felt I had to stay alive for her--
What documents was I keeping and where . . . .
Sometimes, in mid-conversation, silence, followed
with something mundane--“Would you like some tea?” “You’re
very tanned,” “Autumn came early this year--”
The bookcase, the writing desk, the clock--
chiseling out of this some beautiful and mournful ritual.

—Jane Satterfield

Requiem draws on descriptions of Akhmatova’s daily life described in Lydia
Chukovskaya’s The Akhmatova Journals (Volume 1: 1938-1941).
New York: Farrar, Strauss, Giroux, 1994.

from Assignation at Vanishing Point (Elixir Press, 2003).
first appeared in Antioch Review.

Posted by dwaber at 12:20 PM