August 1998

Elaine Equi

Elaine Equi Elaine Equi is the author of several books including Surface Tension and Decoy both from Coffee House Press.   A new collection, Voice-Over, is forthcoming in February 1999. She lives in New York City where she teaches at The New School and CCNY.
The Objects in Japanese Novels    Read Along with the Author

Empty cages outline
the periphery of an unnamed thing.
Their emptiness shines
like lanterns on virgin snow.
A few flakes swirl up,
caught — as scenic views
are caught in parts of speech,
where wishes and schemes
grow gloomy as a shrine,
and hair is a kind of incense.
Here, even abundance is delicate
with a slender waist.
And sorrow, embarrassment, disgust
can be aestheticized too
if surrounded by the right things —
a refreshing breeze, a small drum.



The Objects in Catalogs     Read Along with the Author

are made of light.
Well-lit or seemingly edible,
butterscotch and hazelnut light.
A bit vulgar, like starlets
the objects pose, pausing
as though in mid-sentence.
But really they are mute
— the story barely there.
Like children they wait to hear us
tell of the great Platonic love
we have for our many selves.
A vast literature reduced here
to a few short phrases: numbers
letters and of course, price.



The Objects in Fairy Tales    Read Along with the Author

are always
the most important
Then as now,
the power to transform
is theirs —
the story
a way of talking through
(and to) us.
Shoes of Fortune,
Magic Beans,
are unlike objects
in magazines
for they awaken
us against our will
from the spell of abject
longing for more.
Only then do we live
happily ever after.


They speak
but not
to everyone,

just those
ready to hear
and endure

what they have to say —

impossible tasks,

shine wrapped around
the seedvoice.

Golden apples
in the grasp of time.

"I'll climb up."


(we are)
Forever turning

things into thoughts

or caught mid-air
dangling between

the way children
steep their toys
in imagination.

A bird's heart
in him.

Clouds will catch
and carry him off.


But finally, the objects
in fairy tales are words.

Beautiful as any object
we re-call


Gazing down
in the cellar
through the window
to the face,

Then the tall man
made a ring of himself,

trembling like cold,

old skirt
old stockings —

pride and arrogance.

"If you stretch yourself
you'll be there
in a couple of steps."



Elaine Equi: Poetry
Copyright � 1999 The Cortland Review Issue FourThe Cortland Review