The American Journal of Poetry
"Strong Rx Medicine"®


Lisa Lewis

A Rare Visit


This time you’re going to make your way that whole direction,
driveway to pasture, haunt of lost love, win it back.
Win it back walking in tall grass, win it back with water.

The horses are sleeping in sight. They lean on the fences
till the weathered wood cracks. If you touch them you must
shorten their manes. If you stroke them you must gaze

into the platters of their upturned hoofs for a quadrant of stars.
The horses are too old to ride and lately too cruel to approach.
Most horses don’t sneer out of the eyes. Normal horses spit

back the juices of summer hay like spiders dance in turnstiles,
webbing. You are learning to despise them back. You’re refusing
to stretch tight bridles over their ears, which are triggers.

Don’t twist the one that wags at you. Don’t flick the one
that aims at planets. On this day in history the obvious targets
died. On some mistaken anniversary the obvious stories tell

themselves, and vengeful horses spiral the braided cords
of their necks, snorting into stony ground. They give hatred all
they have, and what they have is your walk that never arrives

at the gate, the smell of your hand when you extend it empty.
This is the day you dreaded. You thought you’d be the dying one
but when you roll back the stone the found skull is long and narrow,

too hollow ever to belong to a stuffed or solid chance.



Lisa Lewis

A Scheme for Conflagration


Oath of solitude. Oath of one hand raised to stop the bleeding. Oath of coyote’s trill

sketching false notes sideways, cedars and snails and pines.

Flight from the crowd, illegible card jammed through the doorframe’s crack, flight to

impediment, the names of prophets, another century’s homage to drear,

I want my freedom. Nighttime television repeats the controversy with an old friend:

she describes a past I imagine crumbling like burned paper.

The sea splashes the corroded sides of the comedic rowboat. The perfume of

turpentine, or roses. Much impossible praise.

What we want is to stop the movement. We throw our weight against the creeping

tread. We crush the tendrils as they worry their way up the stalk.

You on one side of the partition, winking so I’ll guess wrong. We take the oath, we

board the plane. Always your face cool against the palm of my hand.

When winter ends we beg winter to return. Birdsong doesn’t belong, the crocus

holds back, unwelcome. A withered blossom under the bed.

Cling as you will to promise. A breeze thrusts the curtains through the open window,

then sucks them back. Arms waving like necks,

necks twisted and sapphic. Sometimes the rush is to the end, sometimes the end

is in the middle, sometimes shame bursts into the clearing like a motorbike,

sometimes a penetrated body swings from the gallows rope, sometimes a man has

butchered a deer in his front yard and discovered not one heart in the cavity

but three. Visit me again, sister, for the official account of my laws and my cooking.

Wind fills the yard with brittle smoke or leaves.

To secure negotiations you and I enter the commons. In the maze of hedges we
find messages and a concrete bench and a tooled illusion of privacy.

Now that I’m old my skin sags like moss. Now that I’m old I have no need of you or

you. Only you. Oath of agreement with enemies.

Oath of walking into a cold room and finding a perfectly dead starling.
Oath of angry talkers shattering microphones against walls.

A hospital with its usual patchy glow and tetanus apples, flight into flight, rise now,

sworn accomplice, on a slice of forgetfulness honed to broken teeth,

flight into oblivion, the eucalyptus compress cooling your forehead, the notched

lumps of the desiccated spine.




LISA LEWIS's books include The Unbeliever (Brittingham Prize), Silent Treatment (National Poetry Series), Vivisect (New Issues Press), Burned House with Swimming Pool (American Poetry Journal Prize, Dream Horse Press), and The Body Double (Georgetown Review Poetry Manuscript Contest). I teach in the creative writing program at Oklahoma State University and serve as poetry editor for the Cimarron Review. Recent work appears or is forthcoming in Plume, New England Review, Four Way Review, Florida Review, The Meadow, Burnside Review, Tampa Review, and elsewhere.



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