Mary Dalton: Two Centos


First having read the book of myths,
they had begun to whisper,
as imperceptibly as grief.

Hearing the judges’ well-considered sentence,
the atom bellies like a cauliflower;
call it the refrigerator’s hum at night.

On the most beautiful day for air strikes
the season is called evening.
The buildings are at their stations, untimely.

Here’s the little dress-maker—
it’s like a tap dance,
like appliqué on nothingness.

Where did these enormous children come from,
children picking up our bones?
Tell me the windows aren’t really sweating.

In their congealed light
there are portraits and still lives.
A young woman looks nervously out of the picture.

The mourners stand around the bed.
In the hall of mirrors nobody speaks
of the miscellany.




There are others besides you who have worn that look—
peeking through the window-grille,
and in that place,
the mouth moving uniquely with each dialect.
Shall I tell you the secret
I braid by rote? Rough memories coiled like rope:
a fevered memory of
mild, mild eyes ricocheting off his fate;
a body riding up over the hood,
bleeding into the soft grass.

This brings nobody peace. The ancient war
leads you through the streets of this shady city.
They somehow look as if they knew, except
the nude hills come back and the sleepless
stupid pupil, it has to take everything in.
After a while,
the matches, the wrong key-rings,
the lucky ticket with the right signs
are stuck. They can’t join the flag-waving;
they stiffen, when they should bend.

Omega’s long last O, memory’s elision
jostle the vessel he cannot refill.
Even now she does the snake-hips with a hiss,
like a furious pink rabbit from a hat.
She buys up all
the notion of what his whiskers would feel like—
smack! Oh, attaboy, attaold boy.
Lost to TV reruns flickering overhead.
The point was to react,
to an ocean, or sorrow.

You could be waiting for a tailor
that made the sky.
Listen: the heavens hiss—
and when one of the lookers Lily asked me what the hell
came late and will probably leave early,
I looked around at nothing.
Like an album: there: elf-child with dog—
little bastards. It was impossible to tell
and you are someplace else and thirty-three.
You’re running out of things to try.

Mysterious voyagers from outer space
wrap their wings in sun-splints,
shuffle. They laugh together; their money shrinks.
That summer you got lost on a Nature Walk
or shrewd donkey,
to work green magic on my flesh.
Monarchs are falling,
trailing through ditches of water and nevus-ied grapes.
Dead bodies piled on the deck. On the sixth day
without you, the endless guessing.
The sources for the centos’ lines can be found in the appendix to Hooking.


Mary Dalton has published five volumes of poetry, the most recent of which are Hooking: A Book of Centos (2013) and Red LedgerMerrybegot won the 2005 E.J. Pratt Poetry Award. Her work has also been widely anthologized in Canada and abroad. Dalton has won numerous awards, including the E.J. Pratt Award (the Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award), and has been shortlisted for the Winterset, Pat Lowther, and Atlantic Poetry awards. She lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where she teaches at Memorial University.
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