Lila Dunlap

Variations on New York

In March, in New York
when the first crocus
blossoms white and striped
and snowdrops possess the sun
sprayed spots on central park
                I mourn
in the library for a lover I might have had,
am reminded of who I don’t

all these faces above the gleaming tables


Crocuses, remainder of quick breath,
lack of narrative, just
appear one day, and take aim
                before the blocks of ice
amassed huge in the mountains even think
of coming down

                mouth music
                               we make
                motions in the park to signal
that we are ready for one another

                You’ve aimed, you have,
and I’ve put on lotion

                               I’m ready for
your skins as refreshed as Cleopatra’s needle
obelisk taut and massive
erect in the sun after a rain


Vague erection, Cleopatra’s crocuses pierce
needles thru the earth, hard beaks
that don’t want to play,
                most demanding of flowers
tho I do
                               worse than them, you
on the street somewhere in the world and them
                                              right beside me,
who I’ve denied talking about
                               you deny me
now when I feel you most closely, when the wind
enters from some invisible place
                and sweeps the length of the library

Variations on the Troubadours

It’s to themselves that lovers lie
                for a lover’s treasure
is in measure, patience, and July

                not here, thinned out
by the cold and juiceless wind
that blows back and forth
between the mountains and the city

wind that bothers
                not fresco nor lover
in its sorrowful nightly trailing
                                              of the Hudson

I draw from a small place
                               something to pray to,
from a small place I call my heart

                and share with no one but the wind
my lovely lines, made and forgotten,
                                              and the face of one I’m
made to sing to


He who tortures me
                like a hummingbird between my teeth,
flitting and poking the inside of my mouth
                with his scarlet beak
                                              and won’t leave

gestures also as a statue of Hermes
on top of Grand Central Station
                not the god by right, but by
position and precision


A fool’s love...
                cannot take the name of no god

Misremembered, or dismembered
                members where there shouldn’t be
in the beams
                               that fall from your eyes

                want to have you a child
and then kill it
                and then do it again
to tell you
                               that all i want is you
and not what I might
                               make out of you

on the ocean somewhere
                only your movements,
your muscles, and bones,
                and your skin in the skin that it’s in
rough or soft, I will cut it
                               and place your wound in the ocean


Delightful, unburdened,
                the way you run into the snowdrifts.
I can’t for the life of me
untangle the lovely spiderwebs
                               you left on my desk
can’t take them into me further
                those illustrious threads,
                                              sun glances,
or lift them nearer to my skin
                than where you’ve already been


My land’s not worth two gloves,
                but I am her lover

and happiness comes,
                               when I thought I could never
feel any way but bitter,
                swings her long legs
from my broken chandelier
                and kisses its burnt-out bulbs
snapped fastenings, happiness
comes as a true goddess
                               never named, but known
all over the world to the living


For a long time I was bitter,
but now I am her lover

or can so imagine being
in his arms, or dense body

                I can’t be happy
until I return very quickly
                               no right
have I even to avert my eyes
in any serious way
                               if I want to lead the full life
of a lover of the hunter’s arrow
                               and of the hunter

From New Orleans, Lila Dunlap is a graduate of Bard College, where she studied with Robert Kelly. Three collections, The Partitas (‘20), Trysts (‘19), and The Sea Comes Back (‘17) have been published by Lunar Chandelier Collective, and she has published several chapbooks, including The Peacock and the God (The Swan, University of Pennsylvania), The Sciences (The Doris Press), and The Diary of Frederic Church, as well as several collaborative, ekphrastic series, such as Water Color and Tarot Images (both from metambesen.org), from the work of contemporary painters. Her poems have appeared in magazines such as Dispatches from the Poetry Wars, The Doris Magazine, Open Space Magazine, and The Bat. She has also worked in ancient languages and has produced several translations, such as the Hortulus of Walafrid Strabo from medieval Latin. She edits the poetry circular Mint Julep. Currently, she is participating in the Catskill Mountain Foundation’s Writer-in-Residence program in Tannersville, NY.
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