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The 2River View 15.3 (Spring 2011)

Jennifer Atkinson

Canticle of Hours

Drizzle and dawn intermittent: a produce truck grunts and whines
          its way up.

Crows, pre-echoes, cronk-cronk from the bell tower: all four lift off just
           before the noon toll.

Rain, unburdened, gives way to late sun: laughter spills from the
           school's opened windows.

Cracks in the glaze, flaws in the stained-blue light: the splash and
           warble of pouring wine.

Moonlight as if through a door left ajar: the high-pitched tick of a
           watch on the nightstand.

Canticle of Hunger

They say she neither ate nor drank;
Or she lived on music, seven notes so rich in overtones

She couldn't, having swallowed them, consume a cherry more;
Or seven angels brought her seven bites, full moons turned edgewise,

Disks as thin as an egg-white glaze;
Or she fed on manna that filled her mouth like spun sugar, manna

Dropped from the beaks of birds, one taste at each of the seven hours.
Or she took back her seven times seven pleas, gnawing and gnawing the gristle,

Until regret, regret, regret turned to honey in her mouth.

Canticle of Magdalene and the Lamp

for Rene Char and George La Tours

She feels your eyes like a blind man's fingers touch her contours,
the features of her face.

She has mused at the lantern for years, waiting, listening to the flame
contend with a draft, a gust, a calm . . .

The skull rests in her lap like a baby, heavy, anonymous, mysterious
as a newborn.

It is she herself who unbuttons her blouse, who vacates her alcove and
opens her hands to you, to whoever comes and then departs.

She stands, pushes the chair flush with the table, and follows you,
barefoot, treading too lightly to register a sound. Her hair, by now
tangled and coarse, harbors moths and spiders and the smell of
scorched milk.

Jennifer Atkinson is the author of three books of poetry, the most recent of which is Drift Ice. She teaches in the MFA program at George Mason University in Virginia. (contact)