The Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize

2005


Two poems from Bradford Gray Telford's The Gemstone Globe

followed by a note on the author

 

The Gemstone Globe


As usual you have given me the world
and as usual I've got my complaints
like these non-tarnish brass legs oddly curled
out at the foot suggesting in their slants
any number of origins but nothing
certain – rat-claw, Dutch, Dutch angular, drake
or mongrel dog-paw – and while the compass
needle planted in the stretcher points, quivering
towards its true north, it would be a mistake
to think this world and its decorative Atlas

entirely ideal for one another.
Love. Again. Stuck on a goofy pedestal
thanks to a late-night lapse in judgment, Mother,
that and dumb luck, for it is The Beautiful,
A Globe of Many Colors, fraught with lines
of longitude and latitude that weave
their gilt cage of pure perspective shot through
soft continents and imperial blue-
black seas – itineraries leap to mind –
where you're going, who with, when you might leave

and if you plan on coming back. I'm glad
you travel. Time was when this stone-cold terra
lapidosa might have been it, the sad
and lonely que on life's sera-sera.
How many years comprised your long dark night
in your television's blue-rinse glow?
You, you¾buried among your lacquered fans
and cloisonné boxes in a twilight
of national anthem, test pattern, then snow.
You were not happy. You'd made other plans

or perhaps other plans made you. Who knows?
One day a wall came down. Everything changed.
Everything stayed the same. You bought good clothes
and tried the world, even as it rearranged
itself into its current blur of faction
(funny that they've set it all in stone
or iridescent abalone shell,
white jade, agate, tiger-eye, and lapis ocean
lapping, glittering, wild in gold-flecked foam).
When your world was ending whom did you tell?

Or did you bank and turn on your own axis,
gleaming with the knowledge that end is all
the world can ever do? We lose. Our practice
makes it perfect. I use non-aerosol
organic cleanser once a week (or when
I can remember), paying special mind
to Greece, Iran, America, those three
republics carved from Turquoise, China-mined,
I'm certain, in Tibet – where the air's thin,
the labor cheap, the plateau broken, chalky –

 

 

 

Das Fugue der Kunst

Los Angeles, 1992

 

A student carved this likeness of my head.
He said that wood and people both had souls.
The trick, of course, was in the cadence struck
between the two – the subject driving in,
the medium pushing out so each could hold
the other one at bay, a perfect check
and balance. Music of the eye, he said,
will play forever if you'll only look
each time as if it were your first and last
encounter in the world of the sightline.

The trick, of course, was in the balance struck
between the student's driving in his soul
and pushing out my likeness from soft wood.
My head was full of music when I heard
him say a medium held forever if
and only if the eyes could play like two
imperfect people, each the other's first
and last encounter in their world of sight –
a dart of love, a love that draws its line
as if one look could carve itself in time.

A medium plays itself like music, held
at bay between what people want to see
and what the artist needs to say, and love
is love, imperfect in its cadence. First
it strikes the student on his head and throws
him out of balance, then it carves a line
upon his soul and grafts its wooden subject
(hearts can vanish in a beat of time),
and last, a likeness of the world will trick
his eyes and drive him to encounter it

and it, I said, is beating like a heart
between the student likened to his art
and subjects struck forever out of time.
But counterbalanced on that perfect line
we draw is love – a love we must obey
with all our mediated interplay
of music pulsing from our wooden souls
what with our unstrung tongues, our eyes' f-holes
that resonate with all we see, I said,
while carving up my world inside my head.



 

©




Bradford Gray Telford was born in El Paso, Texas in 1968, and was educated at Princeton and Columbia Universities. Currently he is working toward a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston. His poems, essays and translations have appeared in many journals, including Agni, Lyric Review, McSweeney's, Eclipse, Phantasmagoria, Diner, and American Literary Review, and he has work forthcoming in Yale Review, Pleiades, Bloom and Hayden's Ferry Review. Telford serves as Poetry Editor for Gulf Coast: A Journal of Literature and Fine Art and was recently a finalist in the Donald Justice Poetry Prize (from West Chester University) and the Morton Marr Prize (from Southwest Review).

"The Gemstone Globe" first appeared in Phantasmagoria, and "Das Fugue der Kunst" first appeared in Carquinez Review .



 
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The Anthony Hecht Poetry Prize