Who is Mary Astor?

Lucile Vasconcellos Langhanke
Played Brigid O’Shaughnessy
Who called herself Miss Wonderly,

Shot Thursby,
And double-crossed Joel Cairo,
Who carried passports French, English, Greek,

And fraternized with the fat man,
Casper Gutman,
Whom Hammett calls G.

She’s also the Princess Centimilla,
Sister to Rudy Vallee. 
They marry identical twins

Of Claudette Colbert and Joel McCrea,
Claudette who must always be
Shot from one side. 

We are our consummate selves
Briefly and from certain angles
So well understood by Miss Vasconcellos.

Sunday Into November

with morning warmth began to
refill the woods and at an
angle the river that had
no wind on it seemed olive
to promise yellow at a
depth no eye could have seen to
and white aster on the bank
had gone to orb seed next to
that of dock in tobacco
brown or tan
                     with afternoon
an old man got away from
naked woman company
to watch a lone crow harry
a lone pigeon out of
the downtown air that light had
refilled and a jittery
starling and maybe a crane
low in the blue to the east
evening the full moon

North Dakota

how remember prairie of infancy that was
not prairie or flat to you when you would not have
needed even to see where melt- and storm-water
had cut ravines into it
                     is an urgency
to remembering the gravel Svea road you
did not need to know as such and the language
drone that might have been of any
                                       watch out for the
                                       jellowyacket now
                     when they let you twiddle on
                     the heavy grass
how remember trees that you would
learn were not much around when cottonwood and elm
box elder and ash loomed everywhere in fact
and then by name
                     why an urgency to edit
and rearrange the memory exhibit of
a hot afternoon on the Red
                     your grandfather’s
panama and bamboo pole
                                       de får lokket ut
                                       av oss*
when you the dutied scion have caught all
that in words and why remember as meant for you

*they're fishing something out of us.

Four Parts

I. (Company)

At dinner, we considered the division of labor,
the penal phase. We reconsidered
imagination, and the worth of invoking angels.

There was a stand of trees, winter bark,
the black dog outside getting older. White
around the chin and eyes, behind them nothing

but a raven, almost blue, flying low over soaked lawns.
We considered counting and the thingness of the thing
with chapped feathers at our table.

II. (Spread)

You are so bad at naming pets, she said.
The rush of wings brushed any attention away.
Now an empty wrist, released
for some movement somewhere beyond.

Wild calligraphy, worn leather, and condensed breath
when I said, It’s not a pet.
Just another blank staring through attachment
to where emotion doesn’t move needs.

The city crickets rise under the question,
Where is it going? I don’t know.
This is my first time listening for bells
while dogs bury and mice stay very, very still.

III. (The Champion)

Officials reported that tomorrow begins Fame’s downsizing.
Like a snapshot on a sponge—one of those
puffy stickers we were told No, not on books.
They tore the cover, peeling and leaving gray. Curbsnow.

Fifteen minutes was too long.
The spokesperson wore an overcoat
and leather gloves, talked slowly. Experts nodded—twelve.
Reporters consulted their watches as the weather came.

The press conference was interrupted by an oddly dressed man.
He stood up, spoke. He became violent when no one answered.
He threw a spear at the podium. It shattered.
Authorities are still unsure of his whereabouts.

IV. (Uninvited)

In a dust jacket straight from nature are
volumes bound in canyons and arcadia
pulped forests, heavy in planted rows.

We found a walking fish (in Canada, of all places)
before snakes with hips burrowed Patagonia
and screwed space to tropical river banks

with flatheads. Tiktaalik!— this is a poor way
to travel through this state. Give up your legs
for the double sky five feet under.


David Scronce
is the author of the chapbook, Letters to Liam (Red Berry Editions, 2009).  Other recent poems have appeared in CONFRONTATION, Hayden’s Ferry Review, The Portland Review, RHINO, Salamander, and Sierra Nevada Review and online at www.Softblow.org

Rodney Nelson's work got into mainstream journals long ago, but he turned to fiction and did not write a poem for over twenty years. See his entry in the Poets & Writers directory: http://www.pw.org/content/rodney_nelson.  Nelson has also worked as a book and copy editor and lives in the northern Great Plains.

Nathan Gunsch spends his days working for The Doe Fund, a homeless and prisoner-reentry services nonprofit organization. He spent four years as an officer in the United States Navy, holds degrees from Cornell University and the University of Notre Dame, and has worked closely with poets Reginald Shepherd, Orlando Menes, and John Wilkinson. His poems have also appeared in The Bend.


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