Contents | October 2001

In This Issue (Contributors)

More on poetry from The Atlantic Monthly.

Also by Linda Bierds:
For the Sake of Retrieval (1989)
Windows (1994)
The Weathervanes (1996)
Safe (1996)
Orbit (2000)
The Atlantic Monthly | October 2001

by Linda Bierds
We understand the egg-sized ship,
the thread-and-spindle masts,
the parchment sailspuffed to a rigid billow.

And the light bulb that enfolds it.

We understand the man, Graham Leach, his passion for
impossibles. We see him,
tucked within the vapor of his jasmine tea,

while heron-toed forceps slowly wed

a deckhand to a tear of glue.
The rudder would lodge in the bulb's slim throat
but could be folded, slipped inside, reopened

into seamlessness. We understand that sleight of hand

but not this full-size pocket watch
upright in a 30-watt. Perhaps it's made of lesser stuff
than gold, some nonmetallic pliancy. Still,

it mirrors the museum shelf, and to the left

the plump barque, static in its perfect globe.
Perhaps he blew a gaping bulb
and then tucked the watch inside, re-warmed the glass,

drew out a path, clamped one end's concentric rings,

the contact point's dark star. This would explain
what we've attributed to time
and now must give to fire: the amber face,

the wrinkled Roman numerals—

still fixed, still spaced to mark the intervals
of space, but rippled,
a dozen ashless filaments. The filament

itself is gone. Gold's light enough, perhaps.

We understand, to make a living bulb,
three hundred wicks were tried. Before a match was found.
Oakum, fishline, flax, plumbago. A coconut's

starched hair. A sprig of human beard.

Three hundred tries, before some agent, tucked
within a vacuum globe, could catch the rasp
outside—that friction-fed, pervasive tick—

and channel it, and draw it in.

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Copyright © 2001 by The Atlantic Monthly Group. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; October 2001; Concentration; Volume 288, No. 3; 94.