Marsha Pomerantz’s verse offers a participant-observer’s portrait of the state of the heart at the turn of the 21st century. It is concentrated on what is said, and what transpires, between, yet it never fails to keep the end of play in play. The spiral stairstep couplets of “Winding Sheet,” for example, invoke DNA’s double helix as they trace a descent to the ultimate question, ‘Who’s inside?’ In “To My Translator,” verse dances a “lip ballet” to tell us: “One can transfer parts of our self throughout / these lines. Please be the who to transverse.” What bravery the notion of translating her poems entails! And what risks we take reading them, so often do they dwell on what it takes to persist in a state of transference. “To My Translator” purports to be reasonable, but its parting words are at cross-purposes: “transfer” and “transverse,” to be sure, but transgression is palpable, too. Deferring ordinary syntax, making room to insist on a plural “self” and its entrails, taking self apart, taking language apart, Pomerantz takes our part.

—Daniel Bosch

Tri-Town Paving Does a Country Road to the Strains of Bach’s B-Minor Mass

Straighter edges than any-
where in air or ear. Steam

rising in a cold May. Kyrie
in here turned up all the way.

Windows closed. Asphalt
carrier tilts black grit into

the spreader. Chorus pours
Gloria into the speakers. Hy-

pac follows with two rollers,
big and small, backward and

forward. Stops. Canons too
can reverse. The driver, in

parka, steps down and lifts a
Sunday section from the ditch,

stands on pitch, reading. Hap-
pen and stance have their har-

mony moment: maybe there is
good news.

                       In the ensuing
silence birds resume. Fridge

too turns on its motor.


Roy G. Biv Appears to Me between Two Clouds

I’m telling you the conditions so that you can
make this happen too. I was mulling whether

happen and stance, which sing to each other, can
also do a duet. The lake, with no opinion, sloshed

against rocks. It helps if the day before you’ve
had rain-sun-rain-sun, and hail that falls white

then fades to translucent blue. It helps if you’ve
cleaned the kitchen before walking down to the

lake. I sat on a bench dedicated to the memory
of someone, the only cut wood at this edge of

the forest. It was May, it still is, several hours
later, crisp like fall, but time is where I used to

live. Now I live in color. New leaves are waving
everywhere. Shoots of lake reed march up the

sloping shore. It helps to have recently read about
Darwin. You wonder if the reeds will develop

feet. Clouds, in many layers, were scudding.
Not quickly. About like this. I glanced up over

the lake. I said Oh my God, not to anyone because
no one was around. I didn’t mean anything by it.

Roy G. Biv was not connected to earth, had no
apparent intention of coming down from there.

Was just a swath, could have been bacon
frying in the sky, with that strip of yellow

fat. Which is why I mention the kitchen. Red
was at the top, violet at the bottom. A thin cloud

wafted over Roy but Roy did not dissipate
until green minutes after blue. I forgot to

ask him about happen singing with stance. He
might have said pure sound is refracted into

tones and semitones which clamor
orchestrally at angles of coincidence.

Then again, he might not.


To My Translator

Maybe the lunge to the sideward, your
lip ballet, equals the hardest case, squatty

with concision, straightway askance. The reasons
for this are numerable. All the appurtenances, I am

accessible to say, mark their leave somewhere.
This is the only one of mandates I come to you

bearing: hand me into this new space, think with me
the multiplication of tables, the last of shoes.

How particulate the writhing trees, where
my heart is windy: are you hearing its air?

One can transfer parts of our self throughout
these lines. Please to be the who to transverse.


Winding Sheet

Up the stale steps
in the breathy attic,

             I confront a drawer.
             Did ever a bare ass

                       rest on this maple chair?
                       With what part does one

             touch life? Hands ply it
             from inside fingers;

memory’s a chaste glove.
Sudden on the tongue

              by turns come schmaltz
             and herring. Then scraping

                        of a knife on rye, then
                        poppy seeds peristaltic

             in medias res. —How are you
              feeling? I ask. —Touch wood,

she says, heart burn. Small
square drawer sliding open has

              a bobbin in it. She
              is content to mind

                        that bottom thread,
                       loop and meet the needle

              plunging—touch wood,
              through a tiny hole

in metal, touch wood—
with circumferential logic,

              thank God, touch wood.
              Who sets the tension?

                        Sewing notions hurry
                        curtains, ruffle passions,

              defy scansion, touch
              life, touch wood.


The seam has since been slit. I lay
the attic all to rest: stitchers and

             chewers and pickers of bits
              of herring from their teeth.

                        Seeders of bread, renderers
                        of chicken skin, surface into

             essence. Linkers of days
             in a line like sausage,

sitters together on the
edges of beds, sitters on

             the edges of beds in the
              altogether. Frayed ends

                        of threads kick up their
                       little heels, then get plucked

              from the seam now clean,
             touch wood. Touch.