James Reidel


North Entrance

Ohio must mean a warning away,
Here the pines sprinkle serpent’s teeth,

The dried-blood needles drift like snow.
Just telling where you live

Has a twist of yellow tape
From one porch rail to the other

—and there is a body inside,

With cinnamon straw bones,
A mouse nest of crumbling hair

Bedding the vanished face
In grave 6, nicknamed “First Wife,”

Whose hoops and beads
Must have lapped like copper water

Around skin that stroked in a thousand places
Like leaves on a lost path—

The john’s National Geographic

Spread on knees
Bare as a Jaguar King’s.


Projection onto an Ivory Comb

Those Mars yellow teeth sharpened
     and blackened in the deepest rivers of hair,

Pulling out a thousand Psyche’s knots for the night.

There is no room for them in my grim Jim grin.
My lips form a line straight to the Hapsburg dwarves.

Yet still the ivory comb smiles balefully, baleenfully,
     in the antique mall,

And though it shows a little too much gum,
It might fit the face of a bottom feeder,

The upper plate of that cave fish
Whose run is the dam of thighs,

The underbite, the lantern jaw
Carved in his codpiece mask.


Callus Light

It is seen through a lens the yellow of raw amber
In which is trapped the milk of cataracts
—and by going no further
Than the stairwell in the early evening,
When sun comes through the blinds
At the turn
Like the red hand of the Mayan clock,
When I sit on the third step
—put there for man
That he should never wear his shoes in bed—
Crossing each leg, removing each clog
As if I held a mold carved from wood.
There is more of the callus light,
Which you only see otherwise
Sink down in beeswax ahead of the flame.