Steven Toussaint

FIDDLEHEAD

Rangitoto, Tamaki-Makau-Rau, Aotearoa

This little isle, there where for evermore
     The waters beat all round about its foot,
     Bears rushes on the soft and oozy shore.
No other plant that would put forth a shoot
     Or harden, but from life there is debarred
     Since to the surf it yields not from its root.

Dante, Purgatorio I (trans. Laurence Binyon)

 

not by wrists’
oblong bloom
do suitable deeds aboundnot by wingbeat alone
do stone birds fly

not since, dehisced recess
denied, I
drone wildly withheld rose

a beaten firmament
forms
bodiless flutter in the vacance

air lapping synapse
grows permissive
pliant

that the ear ethere
outlast its earthly shell

in aisles of the luminous ovens
winter spreads
her hosts of graying water

flax lists sweet in ear
that whist
hears out, is sonorous
rondo, leads
with a whip and vaults
its plumed flanks forward

Rangitoto
band of coke-looped meridian
as lateral helio-
trope or
ripe fern swivels, vows
to meet the world
it transcends

fronds flare out
in flax, fern, kaka beak
waves locked in gabbrous
chunks, bank against what
perfect impetus

perhaps ferns gather us
give earth its wobbled orbit

August boasts the charm
and dope of season
envious, Venus instanter
all growing things
tastes

O widowed northern
I burned contemplative
to become my desire

vanitas
in laughless ponds

eurhythmic flicker
of flax in proportion

ASK HIM
ASYMPTOTE
A SYMPTOM

in the pine-white morning
the sea is blown closed
a close noise only
winter eclipsed, dampened

emersion’s illicit sprig
a torturous
nightshade, where grasses point
so faint
they are not heeded

west is
empty set for a second
the moonset light wastes it
as dawnlit strap, spores flake off
the farthest ferns, transparent
for peace I tap

ASK HIM
ASYMPTOTE
A SYMPTOM

pendulum
no longer threatens pause
an elm
poached white to its base by lightning
the sun is pendulous as in
pending, hung

all crossings demonstrate shadow’s
dragging gravures
trace us as trees, tree-shapes
demonstrate suns once burst
underground, but the ferns
will not demystify
will not impoverish
will not in good conscience
brace
like the tortured

where straits are chosen of millennia of water
the gods are
chosen of a memory mammalian
mammals dying earthward
as in magma
as a man-
magmatic dying

seeks the ocean’s
ur-source, atomcraft
alloyed wrought water, the slit vent
whence first drips erupt
in sleek discs

in seeking, blind
but fish eyes too catch light
like facets of the chasm
rim

ASK HIM
ASYMPTOTE
A SYMPTOM

lunge of the white occlusive
then the tide drops
and the passengers pick up their hats
from the dunes

fruits turn nacreous
bitter

kids push litter with their toes
are stung by leopard-spotted wasps
smells of illness fill the comb

ASK HIM
ASYMPTOTE
A SYMPTOM

 

 

Editors’ Note: This is an excerpted version of a longer poem. A complete version has been published by Compound Press in chapbook form.

Steven Toussaint (Chicago, IL, USA / NZ) is an American poet living in New Zealand.