How everything turns away… ~ W.H. Auden, “Musée des Beaux Arts” to its small purpose, the plowman’s hands holding reins and plow, the shepherd’s gaze upward inventing stanzas for the month of June. The lowlands are pasture, the terraces arable. Stouter to the myth Breughel has seen the far-away world of fate close to his world. The local and contemporary eye has pictured that as this in terms of home. Green is the sea under a thawing sky as unlike Greece as Shakespeare’s Rome and Rome. A partridge clutches to a waking vine stock. Columns accent the city far below with its harbor awaiting the ship that may be expensive and delicate, gliding on a stiff breeze. Palirunus Marginatus Not everything red is a lobster. But the part of us fed to love pried from our armor and prominent claws is easily imagined all buttery succulence. Instead it refuges further beneath the surface in a different ocean without grammar, spiny and recessed. It has shed its defenses though remains distinctive with hair-tenuous antennae precisely watchful enough to sound us from its other side of the world. With Seaweed Dreams are dreams only—once woken from. Everything ran slower in that sluggish element where your hair floated freely with the seaweed and love became a salty buoyancy of smiles and stinging tears. I was subsumed with the acorn barnacles, sea vases and the translucent baskets of Venus’ flowers, learning my sessility under the hover of dead man’s fingers that clothed you, a spiny carpet of urchins at the bottom of my feet. There you were: Belief made you, in entries of the log books of sailors from flooded explorations, in your blended topos of history and myth, topmost human yet by our day’s thorough fathomings no more than tale and so there I dreamed, dimly yet surely aware of my natural shores, little by little insisting I must breathe as speech intoned beyond words to the single unbroken high C beyond me in the pressure of my hearing. Conch I kept turning away to become the staircase I climbed from the bottom up spiraled by the encompassing element, hoist up my mast for a Hindu ceremony’s music of the spheres, my door given way to this riddle of speaking mouthless from an exterior I unfolded at one with.
Michael Todd Steffen is the recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship. His poetry has appeared in journals including The Boston Globe, Everse Radio, The Lyric, The Dark Horse, Ibbetson Street, The Concord Saunterer, and Poem. His second book, On Earth As It Is, will be out in early 2022 from Cervena Barva Press.