Chris Siteman

We swung swings, pendulum-chain-                       whine, sang atop aloud, kicked

toes shoed beyond tight-closed hands                            at sky sugared blue as blue- 

                                    blue could be;                       how many swings swung kicking

                                                                                  at eggshell glass atmospheres?

             Was nothing          new—

                                                                                                      Was always

                                                                                                                    a game—


Down in dirt, breathing mushroom                                  breaths, counted

worms, spiders—                                                             Gasped as grasped the world

between dirt fingers— 

                                                                               Then threw wasps into yellow-black 

field spider webs to see who’d                                  best who— Who died;

               who stayed—


anthills with Aquanet,                                                        set them aflame, even then— 

                                                                                  Reaching into tomorrow 

for the new but just the same—

                                                                                             Was nothing new—

                                Was all just a game—


And still, the world before us unfurled                                   a hush sweet grass lay

                                                                                                 where deer spent chill night—

Already far off in woods                                  breathing-sweating-savage-beautiful-

moss-antler-stags, does, fawns— 

                                                                                                                          Same as songs

we sang                                                                            down the cut in woods—


                                                                      Was all just the same—

                                                                                   A nothing sort of game— 


for NH, PH & VD 


Five a.m.— Sapphire blue                                         razor wind cuts razor-thin

eggshell-iris horizons under anvil               atmospheres—

                                                                            And we’re whipped, standing

                         a black-ice sidewalk across                      from a Somerville-red

brick church having a smoke, & the stained               yellow, green & violet

rose window’s lit from within—

                                                                                     We’re whiskey-breathed

as so many pews                                 sit empty when we walk through

unlocked oaken double-tall                                           -double-wide doors:

             iron-strapped wood hangs, creaks                 hinges thick as books—


They’re ghost-guards,                                                             older orders, still

stand worded-watch at the door,                 still hold spears chest-crossed:

barring                                                          the way cannot be barred—


And we’re sitting huddled                         together,                 all four of us,

awaiting some priest to pound pulpit             fists, our late-night homily,

but the priest never comes,           & it’s still     just us,               quiet 


as snow swirls outside—       In whispers        even drunk, evoking the dead

three of us sit cross-handed                             for the fourth to liturgize dawn,

          sermonize the holy nature of                                         ecstasy— 

                 But all we hear’s             snapping           gestures near silence,

the no words ditty, tunes                                    frozen                      sizzling hot—


And I’m thinking Keats’ cold pastoral,                      & Dante’s river-mouth:

                                 estuary;          ostiary;         water-writ;       lowest order; 

                 black-river-mud-banks;          remembering;                      forgetting—

Whitman’s long beard                                      & Ginsberg’s smoking

                            California Lethe—


                                                                                                 Feeling ceilings fly

away other sides beyond frames—                     Feel electric

                                           shifts                           turbulent air swirls spire-ward—

Stone arches point; all draws                                             eyes skyward—


                                                           High-vault ceilings              painted cobalt-

               blue-silver-gold-specked:               stars collapse inward—

                                 Rings towards the center where the last morning star sits—


                                                                And the lights all twinkle darkness-edge 

as shooting stars streak                                           red-green-violet-white—

            Sears across glass & gone—         Before human eyes ever catch them—


                    for C.P.


“Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”

                                The Book of the Law, Ch. I, A. Crowley (1904)


We’re rocking out: Sabbath,         then Ozzy, robo-tripping,             awaiting

dawn as a Randy Rhoads solo                 red-eye flight               takes us across

                                                                                    oceans see-

touch-taste other lands—           Hear other music              erupt other songs—

                                                        Wide river-mouth-choirs        rise up— 



                        But we’re still home, 

where crabapple branches                  reach            through kitchen windows,

full bloom, glow blue-white                             predawn—


                                                                                                                 We sit

                                                                   a table;                we’re the couch;

                              front door;                      closet;            eyes turn windows


                              And somehow                           standing

                                                                 between            the kitchen doorway 

                              and your book slipped among                      so many books—


We teeter, knowing edges:          push Jaeger-full cups                             over 

              counter edges               reaching      to touch guitar string horizons

                                                           holy—                      Tears well eyes;

                                                                                         hard laughing knots guts— 


Your Confessions jumps shelf & lands visaged     cover up—               You

                                        hold a dark bird                                                  aloft,

                                                                              your eyes ceiling-ward;

                                                                                                we stop cold—


In my head, I’m numbered                      among the dead

                                                                                               seated aboard a plane 

            high over Lethe: I’m               reading               Rushdie’s Verses

when our plane explodes                         an orange-black-red blossom 

against                eggshell-         yellow-white-blue—


                                                                                      I’m outside at 35,000 feet:

                 pilots, attendants, passengers, puppies & other pets

                                       fall & flail                               seems endless air— 


Finding brass horn handed,                  I blow fire notes;           I fall 

              playing blood-&-                                   making songs—


                                                                      And hit ground hard a misty moor

deep night where you hurl spells—    Back     & forth                  with Yeats 

where hard-bitten prayers fork words                      to lightning—

Chris Siteman teaches in the English Departments at Suffolk University and Bridgewater State University. His chapbook, PART X of ME, is forthcoming from Pen & Anvil Press (Boston, MA). And his poems have appeared in journals such as The American Journal of Poetry, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Poetry Ireland ReviewSalamanderThe Worcester ReviewThe Carolina Quarterly and Consequence Magazine, among numerous others.