March – Carrie Etter

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Pleurisy

At the question
of lung capacity,

the radiator pops
and hisses, a fox

can only be metaphor.
You and that hunk

of metal wheeze.
Sixth floor, Manhattan,

six a.m. winter dark
looks like so much

air to be had.
The fox is stealth.

I almost miss it.

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Horace’s Wet Clothes
after Ode I.5

Shipwrecked sailors hung their shirts, still dripping,
on the temple wall. Poseidon’s temple,

it faces the sea, faces Poseidon, the presumably
not arbitrary god who saved them.

Now Horace, teeth rattling in the wake
of a fickle girl’s black-cold wind,

wanders the cape and finds the temple of tunics.
In a breath, he is bare-chested,

spirited by metaphor: the acrid wave, the wreck,
and one relenting god.

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Axes for Crutches

Once, the view from this room cost twenty guineas.
Once, the view discerned the hangman
selling his rope by the inch.

On the Underground, a drugged girl swayed,
palms pressed to hold open the doors
between rush-hour carriages.

The remarking crowd refuses an exit.
The train will never stop.

Something is using axes for crutches,
breaking the earth’s crust as it goes.

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Collecting the Ridges

The skyline geometry and the April fog are again at odds. This prompts me, as
usual, to go and stand on Hungerford Bridge to collect ridges of riverwater. Once
the commuter exodus has passed, the god of the Thames—for it is too dark to lack
a god—goes to his timpani and starts a tremor of sound. I stare harder to hear it.
An hour into my work, a group of tourists asks me to take their picture a second
time: in the first, they saw nothing they could name.

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David Smith, Wagon II, 1964

A figure sleeps standing because the wagon it rides
never rolls on its diverse wheels, is carried

from studio to museum and back by no
motive of its own, or at least none it knows.

The steel’s tremendous weight is at odds
with its curves, their expectation of velocity.

Sometimes the wagon supposes it emerged as is,
fully formed, one of the angels,

till it remembers the message etched on its largest wheel,
a greeting from maker to daughter—Hi, Candida!

that lessens the vehicle’s gravitas
and gravity, as if with a light push….

These poems are taken from Carrie’s first collection, The Tethers (Seren, 2009)