Stephen Guy Mallett
A Houndstooth Comforter
Lop of another hydrangea’s hydra head,
acanthus anther, my legs know the first
snows on Salt Lake roads, hard water
gracing their naked ankles, no
thing is ever as naked as ankles can
be. Yams sprout private groves, catch
sunlight. We first worshipped trees,
then the voice; death, then the saints.
Strings of yellow dates, ochre lobsters
in industrial vats, I smell baklava,
Li Bai notes the dogwood sapling
shrivels beneath rain, autumn stars.
Not in greed, not as lust, not as benign
as lines in Latin primers; not tears in
the Attic texts, not in answer, not in threats
of rain, not eschewing Persephone’s perfume.
If only the old man caught sight
of your now, decrying the dayglo
fad, clad in daguerreotype black
stole and tail chimneying.
Marvered to delay strife, a soul
glows whose habit has mastered
All things die,
must die, are
doomed to be
worse than cellular
war I’m sure
baser metals forged
from the war.
of the crab
apple tree hid
the cicadas in
interstices of shade.
A Sawtooth Wave
If it can be thought it can be winged.
Fruit on alder chips, conic crown, then,
boletes spore about sugar pine basins—
no, then spores, present fruiting,
maybe we used to be sanguine,
faced bonemealways, pour candy
corn as an augend into the mix’s quick,
corm forms along the ear’s sheath.
Breathe through your spiracle future,
the ligulate millwheel grains suture
together, or the ideas are porrect.
Or feelings about the future there are correct.
Can I move there?—surviving is time travel.
Modular waves issue from the scheme
like steam, once water, a rusted tractor
lies between bunched yarrow, a zipline
used to scale the air there years before
an untouched crab apple—
a shade of sky’s eyelet
in quarks of cream egrets,
spread in a language I cannot parse,
shattered silence of the smoke-break grass—.
Expiable to the last, you’re the one
from my dreams—toroidal around the mast
of lukewarm oolong.
Stephen Guy Mallett was born in Maryland, and he lives in Quebec with his brilliant wife. He is the author of Disparate Logoi (Alien Buddha Press) and Markov Chainmail (forthcoming from Cactus Press). He is the Managing Literary Editor for Milkdromeda Review and Manuscript Reader for Atticus Review.
Tip the Poet
I don’t know. It should be obvious, but it isn’t, and this ouroboros always makes me anxious. Something about obfuscation, signs, symbols, growing up with loving parents who combined science and Christianity wonderfully, and I guess every artist as anxious as I am can come prepared to say ‘I too dislike it’ and follow it up with praise for a medium capable of imaginary
gardens with real toads in them, as it were, and add that the brilliant Stephanie Burt’s Don’t Read Poetry elucidates a problem I have, in that I can’t read poetry or access poetry, but I love to read poems and write poems in the same way one doesn’t quite listen to music but listens to songs. I no longer have any interest in mixed media or the pursuit of Gesamtkunstwerk. I have no elevator pitch for anything, ever.
Who are you currently reading?
John Trefry, Vi Khi Nao, Nicola Masciandaro, Alicia Stallings’ translations of Lucretius, and Johannes Göransson’s translations of Aase Berg. And Return of the King to my wife as she falls asleep.
What are some features of poems that you look for when reading poetry?
I’m a sucker for didacticism, rhyme, and attention to meter, and I’m consistently shocked at how unfashionable these are in indie lit now. I love parataxis and consistent feet; the latter kept to about five per line. I love a good line break. Traditional forms and weird ideation make me happy.
What poets/artists have impacted your work?
Byung-Chul Han, Rae Armantrout, Arthur Sze, Eric Ormsby, Catherine Malabou, and Annie Dillard are some of the living literary giants I consider impactful. I don’t have a Rushmore, but Julian of Norwich, Joyce, Heraclitus, and hooks are probably there. I’m becoming regrettably Deleuzian.
Would you mind giving us the backstory to one of these pieces?
Every poem in A Brief History of Scarecrows—where these and others are collected in a chapbook by the good folks at Back Room Poetry—was born from an interest in Dinggedichte and walking through an arboretum in anticipation of an unemployed Halloween.