Rob Schlegel - Four Poems

The Animal That Therefore I Am

How dead my face must look from inside
this screen. The Internet
explains paintings to me.

I dream what these paintings
want me to dream.
The next sentence pretends relevance

to an animal future. What can I do
with this material called
Real? When I walk through caves of raspberry cane

I think I think I'm more alive than I feel.

The Forested Sea

Thin as the air carrying the arrow
to your favorite animal's neck

woodswallows nest in a tree
adorned with drawings of trees

the lines of which are worn faint
from the hands of the dying.

Grant them the blood of your attention.
They're ready to speak.

52 Trees

And what is it that brought you here, if not the spell the cedar cast
beneath which, deer bed on the boughs
of the Pacific silver fir? The fire willow's new stems
resemble velvet. Addicted to starlings
the sumac shines. Seeds of pitch pine
dream in alder, while cape holly makes excellent cover
for jays building nests out of chinkapin twigs.
And the bitter orange shineth, albeit dimly, as though at dusk.
From silver poplar, Donatella sculpted Magdalene.
What does she smell like if not the flowering pear? A saguaro
fulfills an image, but the image is invisible
like salmon climbing sitka. The lemon's perfume
mingles with myrtle in bloom. Living beyond its light,
ginkgo is granted more. The Monterey cypress
is relieved of the burden of fashioning its own form.
Caterpillars populate the hardy catalpa
as the mayten commits to memory the interior dimensions
of the common box. The fig exceeds itself.
A limber pine is in Montana, growing. The olive
waits for it. Jasmine sharpens the hazel's
irregular teeth. The Japanese snowbell sleeps.
But the knockaway's range is limited, and lodgepole pine
is prolific to a fault. The paper birch
examines itself. Branch by branch, ravens dismantle
the Mount Atlas pistachio while an apricot
accuses the hornbeam of murder. Demonstrating poor judgment,
quince touch the crown. Needles
of the ponderosa, pierce low clouds.
When Thisbe's splashed blood stains fruit of the mulberry,
gray willows become wooly. Lilacs
self-medicate. Twin poplars respond separately
to the same storm. The redwood churns, a towering shrug.
Sycamores go insane. The juniper sways so hard
its roots expand like veins. Ariel howls inside
the live oak. The Pacific yew is so afraid
it grows into a hoop. Taking cues from the copper beech,
chestnuts brace. The grand fir falls.
Rarely, the blue paloverde acts like a tree.
The linden is a piece of paper. A paper bird. It is
a woodswallow. In spite of everything
it sings for you. According to the common ash
a person shall be called many things.
Eucalyptus mourn the plum that never released its leaves.

for John Ashbery

Consolation Match

It begins predictably—a few awkward passes, tentative shots on goal—each team
adjusting to the tempo of the other. In the fifth minute Bristol's star forward lifts
the ball over her head as if to pass. But the ball vanishes. A teammate shuffles her
feet, a third teammate's left knee triggers a fourth to kick her leg so forcefully that
a wave of energy ripples the back of the opponent's net. Just before halftime, all of
Bristol's players conjure movements that seem spontaneous yet choreographed,
suggesting months (if not years) of practice. In the second half the person sitting
next to you suggests the human body was not written for one instrument alone.
Opposing players realize their significance in what will soon be called All That Is
Particular in Its Splendor Belongs
. You can feel in your left palm where
forgiveness begins. As time runs out, a polychromatic haze lingers over the grass.
You're increasingly comfortable imagining yourself in a future irreducible as the