By Virginia Konchan
Virginia's poems are from a manuscript-in-progress entitled The Falcon and the Nightingale are One:
Lady of the Flowers
You resurrect the dream of sleep, the dream of deep,
abiding regard based on mutual compatibility.
You write cribbed notes in lowercase. Your life
is a study in unwarranted familiarity.
You wish to return to stream-of-consciousness
relations without the eventual bankruptcy
of the surrealist project. Intestines are connected
to other intestines, and the head to the body:
to believe this is to defy Plato. You do it anyway.
You maintain interior convictions in the face
of overwhelming evidence to the contrary:
enter exhibits A, B and Z. This is the essence
of faith, as well as the symptomatology of schizophrenia.
A body without organs is not a body. A mind without
orientation is time. Willing to die for a cause: that’s
noble, but only if you die. If you live, you will suffer,
or, in certain circles, evolve. Genet wrote a text in prison
about the lunatic Parisian fringe: Our Lady of the Flowers.
Someone loved Divine’s pilgrim soul; someone else
wanted him dead. Lady Luck, ayez pitié de nous.
Rosary for the Dead
No, I do not think anything I say will bring you back faster.
No, I do not expect the poem to serve me. No, the sun
is no prettier going down than it is coming up. I want
the dead to leave me alone. Tell our ancestors to stop
speaking to me from within those crinkled oil-stained
portraits in the hall. Yes, you were my first love, but
what are you good for? I take the laundry off the line
myself: canning season has come and gone. Once,
among the arbors, I thought I heard you say, like a tin
drum in my ear, that way. You deceived me. The dead
have always deceived me. You were my brother with
the Easter colored hair! How sadly our story ended:
you begging listen. Luke, for the last time: why
do you ask for what you are unable to receive?
Of Thee I Sing
Take your musicality. I knew nothing of your musicality.
Take your mutilation, which came before your mutilation
of yourself. You were dragged to the underworld, Dantean,
Miltonesque, to remember who I really was—brutish,
degenerate. How you did not flinch. How you were,
in all your ways, from waking to sleeping, like a man.
Trapeze artist, Crazy Jane: did you even exist outside
of my metaphoric definition of you? A separate identity—
treason. I called you killer. If you lay down with Father,
I did not want to know. How your body was found face
down in the snow, or in the lake, face up, glowering,
a wasted corpse. White Goddess. Queen Bee.
You were born to serve, to die a sparrow’s death.
Take your place, mother, in the martyr’s order
of things. Do not ask me to remember your name.
Day at the Zoo
What is that
thing over there
This is the chariot of the will.
Your dogs do not thirst.
They want for nothing.
The snow is iron, confiscated and refigured.
You, master, drive through it, impervious.
Your dogs cease even to see abstractions.
Your dogs are never restless,
having become a part of you,
now, like an underwater serpent
with thousands of legs.
No one applauds anymore,
they simply move aside.
This is the chariot of your will,
transfixed dance to end all dancing.
And mother, morose, on the sidelines:
This is my son?
This is my son?
Amen, Rinse, Repeat
No more sudden blights.
The Almanac’s reading
true. The weatherman,
in his seat. I’m trying
to find the right word,
he said. To explain how
it feels. To catch fish without
moving. The falcon stalked
past the falconer, honorific
talons retracted. The broker
stared at the voided stock,
numeric code unwound. This is
Mother Nature, said the farmer,
in whom I’m more than pleased.
Those who say the Lord only wept twice
clearly did not know the Lord: he cried
every goddamn day. Mornings, picking
his heart up off the floor and pasting it back
on his body, cheerful again, a dutiful son.
The children were cruel, dumping sand
on his head. Part of him—chipped bone
splinter—understood, but mostly
he did not understand. He learned to fear
eye contact at an early age, after seeing
one eye after another flee from his
like crows from a strong wind.
Is the Lord an amorous Lord? Watch him
exchange idiocies with a scented girl, then
sway, ill-at-ease. The Lord is inscrutable, like a
laminated map of Egypt, or a hologram of disease.
Jabés, on the sea: “If the sea had no ears to hear the sea,
it would be a gray sea of death. It would be a mined sea
whose explosions would threaten the world in its elephant memory.”
Historian Édouard Ganche: “Chopin’s skin was very white, his cheeks
sunken. Even his ears showed a form particular to consumptives.” Teacher
Józef Elsner: “I was reluctant to constrain Chopin with narrow, academic
rules, so as to allow the young artist to mature according to his nature.”
George Sand’s nickname for Chopin, while alive: Beloved Little Corpse.
1831: Chopin learns, while traveling, that the November Uprising
against Russia had been crushed, and pours blasphemies into a journal
that he kept secret to the end of his life. Biographer: “These torrential
outcries found musical expression in Revolutionary Étude in C Minor.”
Like Kafka, Chopin proposed marriage, but never wed. Maria Wodziński,
dismissed from his life with quiet ceremony: after placing her collected
letters in an envelope, he wrote across the seal My Sorrow.
1849: Chopin’s Paris funeral, delayed for weeks. Mozart’s Requiem,
the score he desired to accompany the service, required female
singers, then banned from The Church of the Madeleine.
Compromise between Church and death-wish: the female
singers could sing, but from behind a velvet curtain.
Major Innovations: sonata, nocturne, waltz, prelude.
Invention: ballade. Poet, be seated at the piano.
Strike the black, otherworldly chord.
My American Dream
The rose was kind of beautiful, nonetheless,
in the garden, beside the plaster saint,
in the moment when matter was at last
revealed. No romance, warned the man.
Later, and if so only maybe, and if then, not here,
but there. The sympathy card arrived on schedule;
ditto for anniversary, get well soon, and congratulations
for this that and the other thing. The fear of becoming
redundancy’s slave is implicit. My birthday falls
on the second of May. Was it ever beautiful?
The white Thunderbird convertible in the driveway,
wind in my mane, heart in mouth, harm, no harm,
done with hard wind, hardly won war, oh, beauty.
Oh Mother, first death. Then a little rattle.
Then a quick fumble. Romance, said the man.
Then some fussing behind his back. The body.
A name. This car is not a lemon. This car
is green. This car sees me: I see this car.
Quiet carnality, I love this gift of lid, no lid,
idle genius, singing beyond the idea of sea.
Virginia Konchan's poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in The Believer, The New Republic, Notre Dame Review, Hayden's Ferry Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, and elsewhere. She is a contributing reviewer for The Rumpus and ForeWord Magazine.