God Affords One Explanation

Understand you will never be happy.
You will hang beneath time like weights
in a clock. Occasionally a girl will lift her skirts,
you’ll feel you have somewhere to go.
Yes you’ll have joy’s aperture—
the world become spatial in its light—
but mostly a wall of bird song in the dying ivy,
the candling of a child’s v
even the heavy roses:
Beauty, in its indifference, will strip you.
Even now you are trying to cover yourselves.

“God Affords One Explanation” is published with permission of Autumn House Press. The poem first appeared in Joyful Noise: An Anthology of American Spiritual Poetry, Edited by Robert Strong, Autumn House Press, 2007, Rhinebeck, NY

St. Mary of the Suburbs

Idols not idols took their place
along the walls—robed woman, half-naked
bleeding man, worshiped with little offerings
of fire.  Were we in the Rome

of the Spanish emperor, or had we passed
to some fire temple of the Zoroastrians?
My friend schooled me in the rites,
but I no longer recall if we stood or sat

as those about us gave that look of wonder.
Smoke rose from the censer,
acolytes gliding past in the slow motion of forgotten
destinations.  In twos and threes, suits and dresses

staggered forward for their blood and flesh.
The church stretched upward in rubies
that weren’t rubies, amethysts
not amethysts, gold that was not gold.

Lioness in Winter

My father had been her only lover,
though through the war she’d fancied Sergeant Fred,
who at her fortieth class-reunion waddled in,

bald as an egg.  On those counts, my father (thin, Yale)
had been a catch.  In Mother’s great age,
a New Jersey limo driver squired her

through the snow to the Walt Whitman Motor Lodge.
“I’m dating,” she said.  “I’m widowed”
might have gotten her la hote.

After Rilke

The room is lit only
when the door opens
to let someone out,
and then
just for a moment
before it’s pitch again.

In that instant
we see ourselves
briefly, limbs before us
examining what
we’ve only felt
in the dark, as though
making its way into words.

The Author Addresses a Tree

We should make a pact,
you and I,
no more frivolity
on my part,
no more lies,
not even in the service
of a greater truth to come.
We should know by now:
later equals never.

And from you:
just promise
not to succumb
too soon, or ever, to the stream
of harmful compounds
threatening your nature.

Be in spring
the beacon we remember,
not so much for light,
there’s plenty of that
(even darkness glows)
but direction.
So if one day by chance
my words are stamped
upon your skin
neither of us
will be surprised or lost,
far as we may have come
from this moment
when we made a deal
and sealed it like kings
with a drop of sap.


Lynn Stanley Lynn Stanley is an artist and a writer. She received her BA in Studio Art at Smith College, where she produced limited-edition letter press books, broadsides, and non-conventional book forms. As a Colby Fellow at the University of Michigan, Stanley received an MFA in Creative Writing, Poetry, in 2000. Stanley has taught creative writing at the University of Michigan, Cape Cod Community College, and Great River Arts Institute, Bellows Fall, VT. As the Curator of Education at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum she has facilitated numerous studio art sessions and creative writing sessions—for children, teens and adults—in relation to works of art. She is a grant recipient for poetry from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the Provincetown Cultural Council. A chapbook of her poetry, Gravity Claims Us, is available from Folly Cove Press. She continues to explore the integration of text with image in her visual work. Examples of her writing and art can be seen at www.lynn-stanley.com.

William Logan’s new book of poems, Rift of Light, will be published by Penguin next fall..

Keith Althaus is the author of three poetry collections, Rival Heavens (Provincetown Arts Press, 1993), Ladder of Hours (Ausable Press, 2005), and winner of the 2016 Off the Grid Poetry Prize, Cold Storage (Grid Books). He lives on Cape Cod with his wife, the artist Susan Baker.