Two Poems

August Kleinzahler

The Installation

Until it all turned into a waxworks
The lot of them
In the same old rooms
Same lamps, chairs, wainscoting
The piano still there, out of tune
Sheet music under the seat

A period tableau, late ‘50s
But off, somehow, dark
A hint of menace in the shadows
It could almost be something out of Kienholz
But eastern, domestic
Taped voices issuing from hidden speakers

How strange to be in the midst of it
After so long
In a kind of museum, among strangers
Indifferent, perhaps amused
Making comments about physiognomies,
Or the upholstery

Indulging their surmise about character
Intimate appraisals
From the recorded bits of conversation
Played over and over again
Recycled every few minutes

How freakishly accurate
Not a few manage to be, while others
Others find nothing at all
Or manage only to be foolish
Or unkind

Do they recognise us
I wonder
t is an agony to be here
Terrible, one can hardly breathe
But so frozen in wonderment
That even with the rest of them pushing
Trying to get close
It is impossible to leave

The Strange Hours Travellers Keep

The markets never rest
Always they are somewhere in agitation
Pork bellies, drachmas, winter wheat
Electromagnetic ether peppered with photons
Treasure spewing from Unisys A-15 J Mainframes
Across the firmament
Soundlessly among the thunderheads and passenger jets
As they make their nightlong journeys
Across the oceans and steppes

Nebulae, incandescent frog spawn of information
Trembling in the claw of Scorpio
Not an instant, then shooting away
Like an enormous cloud of starlings

Garbage scows move slowly down the estuary
The lights of the airport pulse in morning darkness
Food trucks, propane, tortured hearts
The reticent epistemologist parks
Gets out, checks the curb, reparks
Thunder of jets
Peristalsis of great capitals

How pretty in her tartan scarf
Her ruminative frown
Ambiguity and Reason
Looked in a slow, ferocious tango
Of if not, why not