Robert van Vliet

The Light’s Agitation

1. Mirrors

	she smiles
a figure at once immobile and emerging
eyes closed almost lost
	her head back 
		ring flashing
she shows her throat to the fog
coiled unsprung a poise
	of question
these arms softened 
		by the effort
	a shrouded moon
and she drops suddenly

	into being but
		not into sight
a figure crouched 
	by its own fires 
which flare
		but bring no warmth
	the water
surges from dark to dark

she dips her arm she
will carry us we will not 

		a star
falls the bird 
		in the northern
	darkness marries the aurora

	stay my hand

		the moon is a hand

	one state

the sky 

		the hand aflame

beside her 

	in the whisper

of her own dawn

she rises

2. Broken

In another room hardly 
spoken Not referring not 
denoted You see into 
this room You see 
the branching silence 
green capillaries combing 
the sky blue You see 
these shadows 
the afternoon’s illegible 
signature You feel 
shuddering flocks 
of particles breaking 
wave on wave on 
your reaching hand A 
figure emerges stepping 
between you and the surf 
and draws the curtain 
You are dust hanging 
in the light giving 
identity to the light 
slanting through the room 
And she cannot shut 
you out She draws 
the curtain and still 
she breathes you in 
stirs you sending 
a flurry of you around 
her You especially love her 
arms after she drops 
them to her sides You 
are the room and 
you hold her close 
even as she draws 
away Each moment 
here is a broken habit


3. You Took the Sun


you took the sun
from my pocket
and prowled the morning 
streets scouring them empty


the moon a smiling bullet
a serious question underfoot
not stepped on lightly the moon
as I said the moon howl
the word a teacher once 

said in an unguarded 
moment that every 
story and every poem
tells you somewhere how
to read it then he recanted
laughing ruefully read this 

poem ruefully and 
quietly your mouth 
filled with broken glass 
fragments of the shattered 
moon plunging 
through the naked trees


4. Mirrors

	she rises open 
in the whisper of her own dawn the hand 
aflame beside her the sky 
	one state 
		empty and the moon 
is a hand please 

my hand the aurora
		marries the bird 
in the northern 
darkness a star 
we will not drown she will 
carry us 
	she dips her arm 
		the water 
surges from dark 

		to dark 
	lit by its own fires 
which flare but 
bring no warmth

a figure crouched 
and she 

	drops suddenly 
		into being but not into 
	a shrouded moon
		these arms softened 
by the effort
	a poise 

		of question coiled 
she shows 

her throat 
	to the fog

		her head back 

eyes closed 

	almost lost
		a figure 

	at once 




she smiles


5. These Moments


A parable might 
suit this moment
were there one with roots just beneath 
the grass breaching 

here there Dolphins 
at dusk But no Such a fable 
with patience
like the tide 

would ebb It would 
recede to bare
the earth knotty and 


A woman is no story She
wanes slips unseen through sunlight
and grows like a shout
a yawn Then at last

rises heavy
and red beyond 
words beyond pain 

to tilt obliviously
over the islands and horses and swooning

waters She rises
far above the fables
but pulls them gently

tugs their pleats misaligns
their yarns and vanishes
insouciantly into a 


6. On Cold Mountain, Laughter from Afar Sounds like Weeping

	i : Beside Lake Harriet

I see dead grass beneath a
tattered quilt of dirty snow,
and the mottled road flashing
beneath my tires like an
old man’s parched scalp. The frozen
lake is a grinning palm, its
fingers uncurled and lost in
the surrounding city’s grid.

And white light craves the grouse-hued
hill across the bald highway.
But the light’s agitation,
drawing the world in stark lines
unbearably sharp, the light
is an insurrectionist,
brash, insurgent, young. So fleet,
its revolution stands still.

	ii : Moraine

This hillside, pushed here some long
time ago by rude ice, this
hill interrupts the sunset.
The sun slips away. My heart
drops with it, a tambourine
down a staircase. And sorrow
clutches me. The sun will not
notice me here tomorrow.

	iii : Kairos

Here, incoherent sorrow;
imagine, I suppose, how
a building falls as you look
past it to the clouds.
And on this loom, we shuttle
at the nose of unmeaning.
Acts ravel, acts unravel.
We shuttle with our eyes closed.

	iv : The Little Dog

I linger in memories:
a neutrino passing through
everything, never tagging
anything. I slip between
you — under the rock; through the
furnace; out toward Hong Kong or
Marion Island; then off
to Procyon, and Gomeisa.

	v : The Place

And the beaked and trestled trees,
bare, mocking the houses, so
ignorant of gravity,
they drink the same well water,
they flex the same bones as the
squat, ungrowing homes looking
back and forth, riding
slowly down into the earth.

The answer to the question
asked by the beleaguered trees,
at the place where we stumble
every time, at that crooked
corner that fools us, there where
that wandering syllable
settles into uneasy
mud: a world made from a thread,

a world tangled in its own
mutterings, a world in which
we can be one moment at
rest and the next a blur, where
we can clutch tasseled silence
to us one moment then let
it shiver, driven by the
wind; where spoken we are mute.

Robert van Vliet is a poet, designer, and teacher who lives in Minneapolis. His poems have 
appeared in The Sixth Chamber Review, Autumn Sky Poetry Daily, The Eunoia Review, 
Haikuniverse, Otoliths, and elsewhere.

You can find him online at robertvanvliet.com.
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