Winter 2005

Ed Pavlic


Ed Pavlic Ed Pavlic is the author of Paraph of Bone & Other Kinds of Blue (Copper Canyon Press), which won the The American Poetry Review/Honickman First Book Prize in 2001, and a book of essays, Crossroads Modernism, (University of Minnesota Press, 2002). He teaches in the English Department and directs the Africana Studies Program at Union College in Schenectady, New York. Recent poems have appeared in AGNI, The Artful Dodge, Black Warrior Review, Brilliant Corners, Jubilat, New Orleans Review, Open City, Ploughshares, Smartish Pace, and in an earlier issue of The Cortland Review.
Amicus Brief: Friends Who Know Don't Ask   
Anyone Who Asks Doesn't Really Want to Know Anyone Who Knows 
Click to hear in real audio

what?   it's some kind of crime now to be happy
it's someone else who's dead?   everyone's got
an alibi    but how many can use them? :
my client happened to be nowhere
alone   doing absolutely nothing at all  
was a time I'd have 6 or 7 alibis
like him on a good Saturday night   ask Judge
Woolsey   what harm in honest sex less a few standards
of punctuation   like any teenage boy dying

to interview a stain on Molly B's sheets   drooled

& mumbled when he come   what was the phrase?   said
it was a Cancer's translation from the Vedic  
little fool'd collapse on me   breath hot
in my mouth & gasp   "Evil  
does not exist" came to where he'd pay me to hold
myself open with the lights out & whisper it three times
into the mirror over the wash-pot
when I heard he was dead   I won't lie   I saw  
what he meant   I can see him now   smooth as a jigsaw

stuck in pine sap   sharp as any maggot dancing

the fine line between live flesh & dead meat   a
zip-locked paladin with a freezer bag
for a stocking cap   ladies in the jury know the type :  
fingers barbed like fish hooks & a Dakota blizzard
in his chest   suit & tie by day   at night :
says he wants stow away on a steamer
cause he's convinced his brain's the burning
bush   busts in the door & builds a shrine
to his cranium out of upturned shot glasses  

get this : one told me he'd studied death
in translation at a private college
up North    said the smell in the Cedar Bar
is the sound of the Roar that takes the motionless
thing apart   stiffness : fluid
from anything that disappears   had one thing
right: those maggots in the alley are nothing
but milk-spots on God's tonsils   said
he knew a deserted beach
where waves pound black coral back into glass

& sunrises pull salt-wind thru bleached ribs
of a cage made for two   from there it's clear :

10,000 tides sweep like one giant wing  
          & each night   fossil albatross rise from the sand     



"Since I Fell For You" A Deposition as Told on Tape by a Keeper That's Kept to Himself  Click to hear in real audio

was the night I dreamt it rained feathers
from Vesuvius & a hawk crashed
the window & swept a mouse from the floor
it was Drop Dead Fred on hollow bones  
behind Hollywood Paul's trumpet
under glass   Dish Dirty on broken broom
& bootlegged poppies   back before August
prayed into the airshaft for a last breath
thru the bars   twelve choruses with a blade

under his tongue when the spit valve gave

him away   one of those nights should
have ended before it began   I played upright
between sets   faced the wall & tore paper
lips from the keys   took a break out back
& fed another ten-dollar fillet to Chang & Eng
Hole Card's blood & mud Dobermans
that dogs fuck me up   joined at the nuts
& a big blind eye in the middle
of its heads   swear those dog do everything but sleep

at the same time   anyway   yep  I saw them

kick old Hole Card down the back steps    gave
him a choice   take the first swing or mine
gold dust in a sewer trench   play church bells
with Eng's ankle bone or get up off
some of that time he owed the county
graveyard   figure he held his breath
long as he could before he gave in to the firepit
behind his eyes   that first right cut the air
like a switch   either I heard it land   or someone threw

a sack of dinner plates in the street

ever heard laughter hit a man   right
between the eyes   an icicle in one ear   lightning
out the other   that's the sound   rather be
caught by The Rain under the trestle  
pockets emptied   his woman's chapped lips
& a stranger's wallet on a cruiser's
hood   better kick your own heart down
in the ditch with nothing in your ear
but the sound of the sky hung up by its hind

hoof   someone's shadow broke a window

& rats left prints in the Hole   sang "Scarecrow
Blues" to the back of a burnt silver
spoon   "fish eye closed & a bag full of glass
mystery scent & the first'll be last   pop the steel
one out & a whiskey colored tongue   smash
the bottomless bottle   don't want to been
where I'm from"   flashed a g-flat
harmonica & called that dogs home   said he stole it
fair & square   said they told him they'd double

the money if he lived to spend his half



Ivory Deposed In Braille: How Two Wrongs
Equal Three Lefts at the Stray Corner
& What Second Wives Sing to Empty Streets 
Click to hear in real audio

wild poppies for teeth   un-Sung saints drown
their eyes in honey & stand in the stream
numb below the waist   the flow cuts the harp
strings in half   Chuang Tzu   swims under
bright talc in his breath & searches the stones    said :
prove it : I'm not a man    dusted red in a butterfly's
dream   Rexroth rows his boatload of orchids   by
now 10,000 swirls east of Wu   said : prove it : to someone
else   anyone who never swore silent

oaths to "nine times out of ten" & sketched

shadows of forbidden nudes   anyone never went for loop
holes in strangler figs of the desolate mood
palms sing spirals down the rail into groves of lime paste
& arrowroot   the blood-gush of betel  
onto white-hot irons behind the curtain   no returns
& registers never cease to ring
up debts against hollow tones & streams of pearl
thru split reeds   stamina crossed perfume
soaked earlobes & starlight thru a nipple's sieve    

a concentric face drops in a pale pond

& waves thru the five black bodies
of a ripe peach   if you can at least get "of" out
the way   I'll listen to you read De Vulgari
Eloquentia to Hô Xuân Hu'o'ng as banana smoke rises & 56
fingers crawl thru esparto on the ceiling : "Look   &
love everyone"   ash circles debts
of t́nh in the bowl   a saffron breeze moves
flame thru her eyes   & seven ancient kinds
of abandon burn leather-bound

               burn dovetails thru the Book of Rites



Character Witness : The Prosecution's Coup
"It's Not True that He Couldn't"  
He Blind Herder of Moths & Executioner of Flies
Click to hear in real audio

let me get it straight before we start   you all
want to know what I know?   the truth?   seems a funny way
to come after him   why not?  there are a few things :
just press record when you're ready for me
to start   truth is I noticed changes   the night
I'd undressed in the kitchen & had a bath
upstairs   came down to find him panicked  
staring at his hands
said he'd searched my jeans ten times & couldn't find

me anywhere   not sure if that's when he began

to look for hidden keys in the strangest places  
went to the bakery   demanded all the loaves
be cut in half   said if he could just shake apricots
from his mouth   yes   at times I was scared   at one point
wondered if all the real keys weren't hidden
in hard to reach   painful places   couldn't get a real breath
until he returned
the set of steak knives & I never heard anything
more about it   you could call it a terrified gentleness  
a crushed velvet violence   voices in his callused hands

his fingers on my face   you'd think he'd been struck

blind   an echo of a ricochet   flint spark in the rain
from a black stone staircase   bear with me?
there were blank spots   whole days when he didn't
recognize me at all   but a killer?   I've seen him
sit for hours & not touch the keys   pull out his hair
strand by strand & tie them end to end   I said : what?
& he : leashes   I said : what?   & he : to keep
moths from the flame   I said : what moths?   but yes   there was
the night of the long braid thrown over the beam

said : done told him twice   one more time & I'll hang
     that sixty-eyed bastard



Ed Pavlic: Poetry
Copyright © 2005 The Cortland Review Issue 27The Cortland Review