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Poems by Bela Selendy

Sonnet for a Snail

Your trail remains, circuitous and slick,
a twisted, shining ode to aimless thought
but you are vanished, tragically affixed;
a precipice of slats contains you, caught,
forever mired in space too wide to sense
but fatal for your shell's impressive girth.
In digging down, you sought the warm incense,
the fragrant urgency of covered earth
but found a tomb. This porch will press you tight
until your shell is hollowed by the sun.
You'll end your days in pondering your plight
while atoms of your flesh disperse to none.
Misguided by the force that drove you, snail,
you've traced that which betrayed you in your trail.

Row House Lanes

Past oblong greenish plots, condensed in scale,
by hedge defined, brick-edged and picket-fenced
in white, a figure shimmers; short-sleeve pale
embroidered polyester; name, if sensed
then unpronounceable. He bends to lift
a squealing eight-pound lump; a ready stance,
then casts it rolling sidelong through a rift
with english; shoulders twitch a steering dance.
In flight, the flashing nights and days decay;
a football's kicked, grass trimmed, the children wed;
hedge pruned, a final hand of bridge to play -
then startled eyes; the flummoxed freshly dead.
The languid pillars tumble without end
and bending low, he hefts to cast again.

Lay Down Sally

This time the leaves would stay put.
He made sure, crushing
the wilted edges of one pile
with a sodden log.
Brushed the taste of molder
from his lip, then turned
staring to the woods for another weight.

Tiny droplets drifted upward from the long grass
lobbed underhanded by a steady wind;
a heavy gust rushing in
smeared the prickly mound across the lawn
with the broad stroke
of a three-year-old fingerpainter;
the rich green mottled in one swipe.

Paul chuckled emptily
as Lay Down Sally jounced;
his mom's favorite song, he said,
then told him about her long wait.

He moved rapidly, now,
kicking the log aside
to wrest the anchored pile;
a short vertical,
wheelbarrow boot-steadied
hustled to the compost heap
one eye on the wind;

stood gloveless,
scrubbed stupidly
as though the slow decay
could warm.

Paul skated casually into the one-on-one
before it all caught up to him;
lifted the puck, upper corner
not a twitch from the frozen goalkeep.

In the gloom of a lakeside party,
another filled in --
it stopped being funny
long before the end,
Paul charging the blue line,
his scraping halt inches from it
with a laugh at the whistle,
at offside teammates' furious,
perplexed bellows.

I wouldn't introduce him
to your girlfriends, if I were you,
a girlfriend said.

Paul and his father starved
for three days.
They sat together
in the parking lot
and wolfed a whole loaf.

Lofting the yellow ball easily
at a finals match
firing dead straight ten feet off the court
over the head of his stunned opponent
to explode against the far wall
or burrow halfway into the chain link
shouting rocket serve
and snorting at the gasps.

He stood leaning on the rake
staring at the mottled lawn.
The wind lobbed cold droplets
underhanded, triggered a blink.

Paul chuckled emptily
as Lay Down Sally jounced;
his mom's favorite song;
then told him about her long wait.

She survived over five hours,
he'd been told,
staring up at the ribbed edge
of the steering wheel;
brushed by the telephone pole's
awry moonshadow
twisted, snapped
till the red shone much too late.

His father's pride kept him
away from the service,
and kept him away, too.

The woods' edge absorbed
the sodden log
with a mossy splash.
The wind did its job.


Your unfinished face always questioned.
Nose, mouth, whiskers, ears-why the sudden stop?
Your shape held no answers, all larval and pulpy,
squirming silent while a mother's tongue
sandpapered you lively.
Cerebral flaws sent you spinning, sometimes.
Thumped by a table or chair leg, you'd recoil
to spin again, again, paw leading paw,
metronomic clicks of a cogwheel.
In the vast, rustling fields, your ears grew long-
rabbit, popcorn snake-hunter-with wild vaults
through the ticklish stroke of high grass,
inexplicable tracing of a cold, silent quarry,
cautious struts through craters on the stone
wall spine, silver trophy writhing in tooth,
twice alive until we'd shrink your breathless
world back to a whiskerlength.

I hope vast Africa keeps you well, brave Pegasus,
that the warm breath of the savanna fills your tiger heart
as you stalk the wild antelopes you will never see.

The Fact of Laughter

His hand leapt up with every laugh
to shade the gap where three teeth had fallen,
ground loose by forty years of pipe stem.

It startled us, the fact of laughter.
Black Cavendish and coffee had climbed those gums,
settled thickly for years, but this movement was new.
I struggled to keep the saw aligned; he leaned
gently on the bucking end.

In his wood stood a dry-floored house
he'd strapped from saplings and ancient pines.
As he'd ease on a stool of birches, branches
twined and pinned in a wayward fragment
of geodesic bow and grin,
blink up with a laugh at the rain, I wondered
if the rising hand
would pause in air.

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Biographical sketch: I had managed to utterly ignore poetry for the majority of my 30-something years until recently, and terminally, bitten.

Buy it at amazon.com!Bela Selendy recommends:

A Book of Luminous Things - An International Anthology of Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz
Reason: A wonderful collection edited and often translated by the Nobel Prize winning poet, and containing numerous gems not to be found in any other anthology.

Recommendations for writers:

I generally try to discover hidden universals in everyday experience, and do my best to evoke them using condensed, musical and often playful language.

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