Lee Upton

The Stacks

For the makers of books
the lines into hell cannot be short.
What little tyrant could each be spinning?
What lavish saint?

How many of these authors doubted
their books would ever be finished?
The woods rustle and thrash and glint
with their murderers on horseback.

The hater of illusion hates even
the smell of decay on these books,
as if decay is an illusion.
These have left us to our ancestors—

in the hollow hull of a tree
where the ribs of a man clatter
like antlers locked in branches.
Open the vise and soot flies.

Deeper in the book a honey petrifies.
On this shelf a deer looks out
through snow-caked eye lashes.
He will not starve

by the work of your hands.
What is my own gratitude worth?
You've found me.
That is our secret.

The promise that's binding.
A route to the hive.
The missing prize.
Someday, my darling, you'll be wise.

Body Doubles

The Glass Flowers at Harvard
Richard Evans Schultes and William A. Davis
Photography by Hillel Burger
--a photographic album of the Ware Collection of Glass Models of Plants

The water lily's gold anemone
is sealed with vernix.
Wolfsbane shrugs in a monk's cowl.
Where the gravy boat leaked

this angel-trumpet
shakes out her linen.
On page 109 the chicory frays,
benignly blue.

The meadow lily, pin-speckled
as a military map,
peels back
its landing pads for the bee.

These crafts of our paradise
are fragile,
with nothing about them
of the underworld

where bodies molt and then resume
their shapes,
where pain
is the obscene survivor,

the nerves never entirely break,
the skin between the shoulder blades
clings to the hook, intact,
the brain slides back

into the skull
only to be battered again.
Tyrants of hell,
take your perfection.

We will make our replicas
of the perishable,

delicate and vast,
and they will vanish,

down to the panic grass,
trapped in its fright
wig of snarls,
a model of the inexact,

of the molded, fluted,
painstaking impasse.

about Lee Upton