Caryl Pagel: Two New Poems

Our extended feature of Caryl Pagel ends today, with these two new poems from her forthcoming H_NGM_AN book, titled Twice Told. Thanks so much to Caryl, and to everyone who has had anything to say these couple weeks about her and her poetry. Please check back in the future for additions and updates to this feature, and take time in a few months to purchase and read her new collection, or to order any of the editions published by Rescue Press. — AS

The Badlands

You note there is a hole
for where the heart once was
and a horizon for where the
eye was once and an absence
for where the animals–once–were
watching                                   The bloody buffalo body–once
tender and upright–was pierced you
heard through the heart that is
now the hole in the growing
hollow of a grey frame                                   Your
friend the painter claimed that this
was the wild west and in
the wild west there is nothing
else to be gained but further
destruction                                   Your friend the painter paints
something that is not a bleeding
and something that is not meaning
but instead reveals the vision of
a version of the story that
you couldn’t quite believe had emerged
yet                                   Imagine a massive animal body
slow and wait                                   It freaks and
breaks                                   Imagine the animal body dropped
in death amidst great waves of
winter plains–stained by bitter crimson
notes in an unknown language                                   Imagine
the figure–implied by the hole–that
in this particular case records the
presence of the prey that never
ambled                                   Recall that at first there
was no legend                                   So you started
with fauna                                   You started with the
hunt and knew that if he
could paint the lack of animals
then you could pen LAST–and
BUFFALO–and HEART–and it would
happen                                   You could write of frantic
paths stamped through the badlands and
radical lady sharpshooters and robbers rampant
on the lamb and flowers                                   You
could write of the tallgrass                                   You
could write of the green                                   You
could write of the roiling sea
some settlers saw in the rolling wheat
while walking–famished and desperate–toward
far coasts and freedom                                   You could
mention horizons that signaled flight or
the brittle Midwest landscape that swallowed
families whole–or the circus of
tired humans that–once upon a
time–one could pay to watch
paraded through a small town                                   You
could write of how everything that
dies is eventually archived                                   Of railroads
and radios and posts and the
single survivor whom you both had
decided in her brash and somber
splendor captured the very last buffalo
heart in all the land to
make a bare and daring gift
of it to her sullen lover and–
once disregarded–this action marked the
end of the wild west and
the beginning of our tame days

Four Dead Men

He took a solitary walk across
the region                                   He couldn’t stop he
couldn’t stop he couldn’t pause he
couldn’t stop he sought to circle
the space                                   He needed to circle
the space you see                                   He needed
to see the place you see
he could only fathom the place
he knew you see if he
saw it plainly as he circled
and you heard that he recorded
his thoughts on the walk at
the hospital                                   His walk began–so
the story goes–as the dog
days were drawing to an end

It was the finish of one
mood and his commencement of another
He was going to conclude unmoving
he knew you see he would
eventually break down immobile you know
only realizing in retrospect–after the
act of walking–but before recording–
that he could remember the faces
he encountered if he began to
watch once more–if he took
a walk around the region in
his mind–if he recalled the
damage that he’d done and wrote
it down                                   At that time this
man–this first dead man–was
attempting to make things appear you
see he was attempting to reclaim
that which in his mind had
wholly vanished                                   He was feeling–in
fact–a little apparitional                                   He was
attempting to think himself healthy you
know he wanted to walk himself
well and so he wrote down
what he saw and you experienced
what he saw within the stretched
and spooky spiraling sentences that unraveled
and expanded as a rough path
parallels a road that no one
is headed down                                   They wouldn’t stop
He couldn’t stop                                   He disclosed you
know in prose the destruction of
important historical buildings                                   He witnessed the
wreck of ancient languages                                   He saw
old ruins which recalled him to
new ruins some of which he
was seeing again in his mind
and some of which he read
about and some of which you
were reading about him reading about
and some of which he knew
from the very few people he
had stopped long enough to talk
to                                   This man–this first dead
man–admired the wildest gardens you
know but he also couldn’t stop
imagining his passed friends’ faces he
wrote he couldn’t stop thinking dead
strangers’ thoughts you read he couldn’t
stop                                   He couldn’t stop                                   He couldn’t
stop and didn’t want to                                   You
are shocked now abruptly up from
a page on which he is
describing the interesting history of herring
to see another man hovering–here
in your doorway                                   This other man–
this second man is living and
you love him but he can’t stop
he can’t see–you can’t stop
he can’t see he needs someone
to take him to the hospital
He needs someone to circle his
sickness                                   He needs you and only
you to circle his circles and
he needs you and only you
to attend to his sickness but
you’re not–you’re going to stop
You read instead a book about
a man who has recently been
in the hospital                                   This man is
leaving in part to see the
now empty home of a friend
who had recently passed in part
perhaps because he should have remained
in the hospital                                   Instead this man–
this third man dead–is visiting
his friend’s home just after he
died–a suicide–with the hope
that he–the third dead man–
could inhabit again the tone and
humor and luminous brilliant beautiful significant
wonderful loving tortured sorrowful stagnant angry
awesome puzzled tragic hurtful magic difficult
mind of his dear friend during
the time in which he still
survived–when this man was not
yet ill but lived instead to
write about architecture and remarkable buildings


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