Register Sunday | June 23 | 2024

Three Poems

Portrait with Stuffed Jackalope

Something like divine justice afflicts us.
Look at the signs: bushes light themselves ablaze,
icebergs run as lemmings into overcrowded seas,
squid-like plastic bags hang from branches.
Remember when the great rivers raced backwards
and trees, bodies, houses, hills were driven under?
Now the lucky unlucky pierce our perimeter,
starving, against their older judgement.
You used to say It’s not too late before praying
mantises climbed the sugar-water dispenser
and garrotted the hummingbirds. I painted you
as Francis Bacon would, had he been painting
a predatory beauty just coming to life, eating
through the skull of an old, iridescent hope.

Meditation on a Puzzle

If you stopped, mid-reconstruction, you’d recall
doing this jigsaw two decades ago. How could you forget
the fist bursting from soil, or the cemetery at night
with its dozen shades of brown? But finishing it
didn’t make you whole. Its purpose was distraction.
When you find the missing loop of the water tower,
notice orange light a hundred feet above the killing floor,
as always, the mayor’s apologies have come too late.
The motel’s angry neon has switched on. What you
remember as a brandy bottle is actually a beating heart. 
The picture didn’t change, you did. You have left the ranks
of wishful reconstituters. Alone in your walnut
library, sun falling behind the gathering crowds,
a dire new task presents itself.

Twilight with Waterfowl and Rip Van Winkle

It’s here. That moment when the day pretends
it never ends. Who you gonna believe? it asks.
Forget that fingernail of moon. No one
is limping across the lawn. No one kicked
the little blue chairs across the playroom,
or pulled you by the scalp onto tippytoes.
And when the sisters pay a visit, the bared
teeth won’t sheath or the thunder stop.
Yet spying the weakness in what is close
we often miss the clunky reasons for love.
The geese are waddling up the slope, bringing 
their young to the tender fescue under the oak.
If I drank the Kool-Aid, once, and slept decades,
now my lids have cracked. I am still yours. 

Derek Webster’s first full-length collection Mockingbird (Signal) was a finalist for the Gerald Lampert Award for best poetry debut in Canada. He received an MFA from Washington University in St. Louis, where he studied with Carl Phillips, and is the founding editor of Maisonneuve Magazine. Recent work has appeared in Columba Poetry, yolk., Font, Blackbox Manifold (Sheffield) and The Honest Ulsterman (Ireland), and is forthcoming in Stand (UK), Grain, Freefall and the Ampersand. He lives between Montreal and Toronto.