February 2002

David Gravender


David Gravender won the E.J. Pratt Poetry prize while a graduate student at the University of Toronto. His poetry has appeared in The Fiddlehead, Queen’s Quarterly, The Tabla Book of New Verse, and on the buses of his hometown of Seattle. He is looking to publish his first collection.
Burning Boy   

after the Bellingham, WA, oil pipeline explosion, 6/99

Pink and glistening he rises from the river
of oil and water, fire and boiled fish,
hairless and naked as the day he was born,
tender, almost intact
                               except (I see them again)
his unshod feet, white toes on green grass,
fair-skinned, unburnt,
                                scalding the day.



The Jerusalem Syndrome   

... The symptoms generally appeared on the second day of their stay in Jerusalem when they began to feel an inexplicable nervousness and anxiety. Often the patients changed their clothes, the preferred  dress being white robes, in an effort to resemble biblical figures...:  women always chose to emulate a woman from the Bible while men  chose a male figure.

The first sign was nothing:
                                         a slight wind
fluffing the hair on my temples, then a breath
of juniper, evanescent, above the swept
brickwalk and drawn market-shades
bleached under an ever scrutinous sun.
A fountain, unlikely, preposterous,
was sputtering in the middle of a court:
dirty water, scummy, splashed stoneworks
green with algae, yet sparkled despite itself
and what neglect was poisoning it.
                                                    Three coins
the grey-blue of my eyes lay on the pool floor,
while a small sickly fish—a fish!—circled
unsteadily, pale gills fluttering in and out.
How it got there, God knows. Tossed out,
or the last of a once plentiful stock.
                                                     I glanced away,
a little nauseated, as my eyes began
to smart in the brilliant glare.
                                           A long-necked man,
about my height, cleanshaven, in a white tunic,
appeared beside me, studying the water
intently, as if unraveling a complicated text,
muttering words I couldn't understand
yet in his cadence familiar, intimate.
                                                     A sweetness
enfolded him lightly, a natural fragrance
I couldn't place: cedar and lilac; perhaps rosemary,
tinged with cinnamon; or the clean aftermath
of a rainstorm in early spring.
                                            Then the old dream:
I'm home in a house I don't recognize,
but am certain is my own. A summer rain
mists down, a fine comb being pulled
through tufted trees and hedges. Indoors,
a jigsaw puzzle in pieces on the kitchen table,
while voices whisper on a black screened porch,
now and then punctuated by slaps
of quick palms on necks and forearms. On everything,
a scent mixed of rose and old cologne.
I'm arguing with my father, or his father, or
a man who's somehow both, while walking
down a long hallway. Reproach and betrayal,
hot resentment, his face shrouded
and turned away in the dusky less-than-light.
Then beneath him, the floor gapes open, he falls
and I am tear-struck, bawling,
inconsolable in guilt.
                                        Coming to,
I seemed to be staring up through water
at my face gazing without recognition down:
acne-scarred, grit-flecked, spectacled,
hair short, parted left-center, a visage
wavering in slow ripples, darkened
yet precise, in the way a new acquaintance
can impress from complete unlikeness
or a resemblance so old as to be forgotten;
as if saying here were a new arrangement
of features, an undiscovered variation
of nose, mouth, eye, ear, something
at last different under the sun. As if
a redemption were to be granted, a new
beginning, or one were to know oneself
afresh from the start, like day-lilies
lofting their heads through flattenings of earth
proclaiming again the first gospel of the sun.




David Gravender: Poetry
Copyright © 2002 The Cortland Review Issue 19The Cortland Review