Nine Poems
Marthe Reed

"dream is a desire, is a story"

A dream is a desire, an authority against which we rebuke ourselves.  A story, passage against night. When we woke a gecko threaded itself across the woven ceiling.  Fresh eggs and papaya for breakfast.  The ceiling is not blue but an elaboration of yellows cascading toward.  Blue heat, feathered toes of the gecko where it hangs from the rafters, hunting.  Cotton, resist stamped in blue. A pressure against which we weave, or are woven: lion god dancing toward the temple.  Dream of monkeys, smoke rising above canopied green.  A dream, or desire.  Water ache poured from a long-handled cup.  Another rebuke.   Cold.  When we woke, elaboration of desires, sweetening heat of banana jaffle.  Or stories.  Rough chatter of hens and kitchen fires, bull-form sarcophagi entomb the dead.  A passage or dream of night, which is another.  Blue, feather cascade of stars.  Yellow defines an idea of the light.  Or traces its circumference.  Rebuke, or resist, an idea which is itself blue.  This is not (or is) a story, I am telling.  A dream of breakfast, and the dead.  Dream tracing the circumference of desire.  We drowse on the veranda, air ripe with heat and the broad smooth leaves of banana.  A pressure of blue and yellow.  When we. Counterpressure to the elaboration of another.  Authority.  Wake, blue, a feather.  Cascade, or collapse.  Resistance amid the rough chatter of definition.



"If you see a generation over whom the heavens are rust-colored like copper so that neither rain nor dew falls, it is because that generation is wanting in whisperers.  What is the remedy?  Let them go to someone who knows how to whisper." The Talmud: Ta'anit 8a


kishuf     water lily, yellow

water iris




water flutters



     into itself

          mutterings of



     cypress (kishuf

giving form to



     mirror of heaven

lily leaves drift over its surface



water iris



score its mirror

brilliant orange flashes

     hycinth, beside lily




hyacinth, hyaline, sweet

taste of



orange and yellow mirror (mirror), a


question splashes

into itself


form and formlessness



matters of



or imagination

a drifting of leaves over a surface


the cat

hunting in a mirror




leaf mirror

(voicing a score      of others


memory flutters over its surface



whispering under a rust-colored sky

mutters like a good



a god, this majik


language translating itself into silence

babel (the gate of god


enters by means of

a language of flowers


a question issuing itself into the air

tumult of delight


water hyacinths




alterations of intention


water forgives the mirror

reflecting itself


an irrelevant question

this precise collaboration of forms


of blue and yellow

of blue


yellow water iris scores

the heavens


making a

muttering of its own




hyaline, hyades

light re-

          fracted through a confluence of



a lens or remedy


v of light


a scattering of light


daughters of darkness


a glass through which alternations

of intention move

refracting and muttering



     daughters of





water mutters even in darkness

even in darkness


when the rust-colored sky is obliterated

kishuf mutters


calling to the air

whispering to her daughters


arrow shaped leaves

     spikes of

blue violet flowers


score the air, muttering

the language of mirrors



such voices of fish or flowers, of green

swords knifing the air



When warriors put on light woven armor,

Swords are the color of smooth salt


And bows groan and wail,

And bending spears are wet.

                        Al-Khansia (Iraq 575-646)



When warriors put on light

When warriors put on armor of oaths and allegations

Their swords are the color of smooth salt


When warriors put on armor woven of vengeance

When their swords torment them with longing

The sun rides among them as a warrior itself


When warriors put on swords

When warriors grasp swords the color of smooth salt

They groan and wail with desire


When warriors put on swords, whet and honed with longing

When warriors are the goads of faithless lovers

Desire binds their cries


When warriors wear the arguments of avenging saints

When warriors chastise the unworthy

Their swords are the arc of justice


When warriors advance beyond reproach 

When warriors determine to punish the dishonorable

Light dances upon their swords


When warriors put on swords the color of smooth salt

When warriors chant their vengeance over the desert

Howitzers and cruise missiles rain upon Basra


When sword-songs rain upon Baghdad

When cities burn and tumble in the schirrocco of their song

Their song has the savor of salt


When mothers put on mourning

When wailing bends the light rising out of city ruins

Theirs is the garment of liberation


When warriors put on armor woven of justice

When swords thrust liberation

Death swims in their dark wake, devouring both blade and sorrow


When the sun vanquishes even the sound of arms

When the sun makes the sand a retina-burning lens

Light is neither a threat or a promise

The taste of smooth salt is all that relieves the torment of light.


Garden of Delight

     for Darrell Bourque


"A vein of sapphires

hides in the earth,

a sweetness in fruit"



     (12th c., India)



a vein of sweetness in the earth

in sapphire fruit

in globes of lemon flesh


a fire of blossom at its feet

in sweet tree

in iridescent wings


a tang of sweet fire and heat

in honeyed earth

in mouths of sapphire flesh


an earth of juice and warm air roiling

in hidden tumult

in sweet mouth


a blossom on the tongue

in lemon fire

in vein of earthy madder


a mouth of heat and light

in sapphire blossom

in globes of honeyed scent


a tongue of sweetness

in hummingbird air

in sapphire wings


a tumult of blossom and sweet tree

a fire of flesh

in veins of earth and light


a lemon sweetness roils, gives way to fire

in sapphire mouth

in honeyed tongue

in iridescent wings

in earthly veins

a tumult of fire dances in the air




an air of fire in the tumult

in sapphire veins

in wings of lemon tongue


a mouth of fire at its sweetness

in sweet light

in iridescent earth


veins of sweet flesh and fire

in honeyed tree

in blossom of sapphire tumult


wings of air and warm sweetness roiling

in hidden tongue

in sweet scent


globes on the blossom

in lemon light

in heat of earthy mouth


a madder of vein and fire

in sapphire tongue

in blossom of  honeyed mouth


a tumult of air

in hummingbird juice

in sapphire earth


a flesh of mouths and sweet earth

a heat of fire

in tang of wings and tree


lemon feet roil, gives way to blossom

in sapphire fire

in honeyed flesh

in iridescent globes

in earthly fruit

an earth of sweetness dances in the vein


Negotiation with place

Topos, to articulate a means of entry, a sanction against trespass: consensual knife-edged opening.  Topos, Atchafalaya water way, silt, alligators.  Bayou threads imperceptible over cypress knees.  From Choctaw bayuk.  A removed people, a tracery of languages left in their absence: litany of sensation or impression.  Swamp lilies and bald cypress, salt domes, water moccasins, sticky clay.  Humidity.

Place and memory, complex and branched sensibility: forest and booted feet.  Carrying me there (memory).  Sweat clings to my brow, mosquitoes drone in the thick air, matted verdure.   Palimpsestic, language and history (damp, bird-foot, opossum), articulating one's experience as translation.  Another: place.  Slavers, Mound Builders, French colony.  The wet whispers its own arguments over my skin, irrefutable.

Topos.  Relation between particulars of local and its human inhabitants, we enter a world defined by.  Experience of language itself: Teche, Arcady, Catahoula, Natchez.  That surface, a response or collaboration, hybrid of human and other-than-human.  Synthesis.  Water oak and woodcocks, M. de Iberville, War of 1812, tupelo gum, zydeco, crawfish, swamp lilies.  Intersection across a temporal gradient.

Place, topos: a mode of articulation, or sanction. Temporal gradient across which she (I) move by means of language: bayou, bayuk, Code Noir, creole.  Past and present, intimation of.  Grand Derangement, M. de Chopart, swift justice of Natchez Massacre, Code Noir, army corp of engineers battling implacable and sprawling Mississippi birdfoot delta.

Suburban topos: live oaks sheltering houses, loosening foundations, abandon leaves and leaf-out all at once, hard clattering over the lawn; lithe green lizards spring, take.  Cover under the branched sprawling boughs of purple and white azaleas.  Waxy camellia leaves.  Near natives, these.  Azaleas and camellias.  Cat, gray intruder.  Grasped solidly in seven year old arms and borne away.  Cat and child.  Place.


Winter Canon: South Louisiana

Bare branches draw a pale refusal, irritable beneath an absent sun: charter of stillness, an opening overhead in the dissolution of leaves.  In the absent canopy, black and white warblers, flashing brilliance of, prints like small hands (augere, to increase: litany of imprecision.)  A negotiation with place

Language rustles, dry in the wind where cold etches yellowed grass.  Empties the air.   Composition of wet clay and oak.  Roots assume a quiet determination.  A space shaped by the persistence of rain, or raccoons.  Small hands worked into the earth, their tracery a sentence forming at the edge of memory.

Leaves and their absence, recollection a process of accretion or sedimentation.  Bare trees efface the distinction between sky and horizon.  In their refusal to abide by the darkness of winter, vines cling, asserting a motion forward as well as back.  Twining.  Light-washed trunks of water oaks and ashes.  Motion

Forward: augment, a vowel or a lengthening of the vowel.  Winter refuses to participate.  Canon piecing together stillness and motion, cold and the directed movement of low pressures along a gradient.  Warblers and the flashing brilliance of.  Language moves on a current of memory, or air.

In the absence of memory, language insinuates itself.  Introduces another pressure.  Permission, augere.  Moving tangentially to the source, water erodes its passage.  Creek bed washing away earth, revealing the twisting architecture of oak roots.   Bayou a crosshatched flightway, language and memory.


Of the Shulamite

        "black milk of morning we drink you at dusktime"

                    Paul Celan


    "The way the sky turns deep honey at noon.  The way my

     sensations seem to belong to a me that has already sided

     with the world."

                    Rosmarie Waldop



with the world     what

alternative to that honey




dusk skinned

fragrant as olives


green rue

fastened in yr hair

Celan's black


milk yr flesh

saffron and pomegranate Sulam

garden you've already


sided with honey

with green figs and flagons of black

wine     saffron scented robes



sided with myrrh and

aloes, damask



garden and gardener

our bed is green

yr jeweled cheeks


yr black

hair sided with Gilead's black



sided with Israel

like pillars of

smoke         black and tasting of cinnamon


sided with milk

sided with honey      honeyed morning

cedar house and fir


sided with wilderness

forest of grape green vine

so pleasurably flesh


yr hands a henna tracery

of vines green shoots green

rue in yr hair


dusk woman

yr body a skein of

black silk


sided with fire

sided with

red lilies, vernal



anemones and lilies


anemones already green


morning yr hair rue

yr fingers smelling of myrrh

yr jeweled cheeks


olive skin yr

flowers and black milk

you wash


yr feet

in the sky honeyed

feet Sulam woman


black as Celan's black

milk, black attar morning

we drink you


kiss yr

hennaed wrists so pleasurably

a bed, or gesture


tangled garden

damask rose among black



cedar house yr jeweled

hands and hair

black as goats, as black attar


yr jeweled cheeks

a drink at dusktime

a damask sky



Shulamite the sky

a tracery of vines on yr wrists

hennaed tokens


letters, calligraphic gestures

already siding with



yr rue yr black goats and wine

Celan's morning

our green bed



henna traceries like pillars

of rue and vine


or rafters of fir

Sulam and Israel

Solomon's sustenance


black milk of morning

damask and black skinned

apple Sulam ::



    wild garden


The daughters entreat
the Shulamite

scent of black skinned olives, hands shining with oil with lilies Genessaret lilies in your hair red (honey) in your hair. black and already fragrant damask skinned woman, your hair, your fragrant hair and skin, your hennaed hands, green rue and foliage, these adornments, your grape vines and wine

tracery of vines your hands, or veins, a jeweled tracery, lapis formed language of desire.  in your hands green figs, green and saffron colored roses.  at dawn, your roses turning, or you turning your hair glistens with fragrant oil with Genessaret jewels or vines, argot of flowers we cast at your honeyed feet

honey woman, black skinned Sulam woman, olive woman.  lilies form a jeweled script.  henna adorns you, we adorn your wrists and ankles with lilies we adorn you.  green rue in your hair, garden redolent with saffron with fragrant olive flowers, these already belong to you, your hands petals and green figs

roses their red petals, their green and russet canes a tracery.  milk and honey fragrant ointment, dark wine.  saffron adorns you, your saffron robes green rue in your hair.  black hair, black as Gilead's goats your petalled hair.  belong to noon as to morning.  where you turn against the sky you drink damask rose and he sighs

jewelled woman, lapis petalled woman, woman of Sulam deserts and wilderness. jeweled language woman, your saffron mouth and myrrh scented hands, crocus stamened hands.  green robes your green bed in your hair black and winding swath Genessaret lilies and roses, he sends you green figs and roses you eat them teeth white as washed sheep

you stretch out your ankles dusktime myrrh and the savor of roses jeweled.  your robe dusk a sky fastened in your hair, lapis petalled sky already honey.  already olives glisten on your mouth flower language gestures from your wrists and ankles.  you stretch out etched wrists, garden's voice your black hair and wild pomegranates, his ardor a veneration::  yours


her reply (the Shulamite)


(damask                                          black and lapis petalled


                                                       language glistens

blind to itself                                    or bound

                                                       fastened with brooches

and jewels                                       at dusktime

opening and erasure                         henna dipped brushes adorn

                                                      my wrists with signs

a language of                                  gestures

                                                      Genessaret lilies

Genessaret anemones             

                                                      a green bed

green rue                                        a fastening of vines

figs and vines                                  at my waist

another language                             another


hunger bound                                  (or unbound

beckons                                          glistens like dew

grassy palimpsest                            green bed

green roof or sky               


black and                                        lapis formed