2 A.M. WITH KEATS · EILEEN CLEARY
As I read Eileen Cleary’s 2 a.m. with Keats, I felt breathless, suspended in a place of red keys, plum stones, cats, willows, and sphinxes. It would minimize the reach of this brilliant collection to call it an elegy or a eulogy, or even a love story to Lucie Brock-Broido or John Keats – though it is all of those things. Here, in this place where “the elm says Grief and the oak, Grief,” the poems shine and scatter across the pages like “a phantom of stars.” Cleary engages the rhythms of another world, of “sweet music honeyed and unheard,” where “Lucie reaches forty years back. . . .” Embracing the quirkiness of Brock-Broido’s imagery and the love of Keats’s line, Cleary creates a séance of astronomy, searching for the origins of human and poetic magic, where “looking for signs means I’ve / once been broken.” I will return to 2 a.m. with Keats again and again, to remember Lucie and Keats, to inhale “rose milk . . . mint.” — Jennifer Martelli, author of In the Year of Ferraro
|Dimensions||6.5 × 6.5 × .25 in|
Lucie Asks About My Childhood
for Lucie Brock-Broido
In me, she divines no climate.
We each take this to mean sorrow,
as sunglow and mauve almost define
the landscape on one-sixteenth.
The elms eavesdrop by the window,
store legends in their veins.
Lucie reaches forty years back
to cover my girl-body with a quilt.
Though that girl stays in her room,
my mind rises, then ventures outside
into fattening clouds,
a park filled with woodlands,
a lake at the foot of a tower where
geese walk single file to soften the wind.
I notice the wind, the brilliant grass,
call a few blades by their given names.
You pose as a temporary walrus
breathing through straws. The plaster
swells your lips four years before
your lungs’ cave swallows you.
As for now, this image becomes you.
I want to graft your skin to mine,
cell to cell. This gesture, not arbitrary
like suffering. But intimacy I can achieve.
While your body releases its twenty-one grams,
this wax preserves a thousand hairs on the ridge
beyond your eyes, the temporal wasting that made
you feel already posthumous. It doesn’t save
your gasp at the first clot you coughed,
not the salt of a single anchovy,
not three bites of bread, not your
sweet music, honeyed and unheard.
About the Author
Eileen Cleary is the author of Child Ward of the Commonwealth (Main Street Rag Press, 2019), which received an honorable mention for the Sheila Margaret Motton Book Prize. Her poems have appeared in Sugar House Review, West Texas Literary Review, The American Journal of Poetry, JAMA, Right Hand Pointing and other journals. Cleary founded and edits the Lily Poetry Review and Lily Poetry Review Books, and hosts/curates the Lily Poetry Salon.
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Copyright © 2021 Eileen Cleary
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