Lemma; Dilemma; Trilemma

Sandra McPherson


One horizon
tells us
it’s for everyone—
it’s the only one.
There’s a comfortable marsh
growing at its outcome.
The damp
breaks the string-soft brushline with reeds
cedar root        strips
bear grass.
berry stain.
A horizon of clams smoked and dried for winter.
Beds of snails
cattail mattresses
wetlands of swans and snow geese
Dogs sheared with mussel-shell knives.
Soapberry whipped and eaten as ice cream.
The parking lot for the trailhead
is near the large white barn.



The parking lot for the trailhead
is near the large white barn.
Choice places,
play with straw dolls on the bales,
shy away unnoticed,
two small feet.
Two nearsighted eyes.
As you don’t want to be seen,
you go as impurely you,
itchy with heifers’ hay, dusty with cattle-scuff.
The first notebook, small
pages, pink perfumed pen:
it, and you, are two.
There is the farmer’s boy.
There is the farmer
killed beneath his tractor.
Aroma’s everywhere.
The whole remaining life is a fold between instants—
two points in time—a root and a nick—
the here and now—
alfalfa alternative to bay laurel,
climbing the rusty beds of workers,
told where you are in the tree
is its crotch



          Notebooking summer
bent on ending—should I delve,
or tinker?

          Two things to do: read
and remember. There’s always
a place saved in Du Fu,

          its seams interrupted
by home-scissored bookmarks,
a sliced announcement,

          too thin or too short,
julienned memos, lengths
of lachrymose Hallmarks.

          For today’s appointment—
under influence of Halcion—
take favorite translation;

          don’t be silly enough to ask
Dr. Du to sign it . . .
Well, old Du Fu, that’s me

          I was a guest at the governor’s
I jumped on a horse
He fell off the horse. Me:

          Wait for a ride?
Give stasis a fling?
Float an air-changed mind?

          I hallucinate the patina
of foxtail barley. Browse the butterflies
in totems of hollyhock, a horn section.

          No pain. The needle sleeps me.
Make sense, beautiful plethora
in the notebook,

          in the crotch of the tree,
by the white barn, with the almost
wavy horizon beyond. . . .

          Feet in dried earthstars
and apricot leaves, in the dental chair?
And I do ask Dr. Du will you autograph

          A Life in Poems—
it amuses his hygienists,
who don’t know how to recognize

          the genus “Periodontisaurus.”
I did not fall off the Periodontisaurus
said the ancient poet.

          Invasive verses
will be eaten by crickets.
I had one, a good reviser.

          I dreamed of you, old friend,
you were so real
I could have touched you!

          Ages to come
will warm themselves at your verses
in the satisfied stomach of my cricket.

          Sluice with a little blood,
says Dr. Du. I do. I’m
calling it dew.


Italicized lines are quoted from translator David Young’s Du Fu: A Life in Poetry.

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