Elizabeth H. Barbato

Soskalom Volch'im*
Read Nose, read Overcoat, read Queen of Spades.
The line outside the prison gate is rain.
Spindles thrum, temple-pound sewer ratking:
one hundred-odd tails, Gordian shining.
Anna takes her soap and goes to work. She
lingers in cells, grandest bee among drones,
fails at parties, loud ghosts overcome her.
Glasses wink, white ink slips beneath her rug.
When nobody else describes It, she does,
thin-spun preface, in a blue-faced swagger.

While Genghis the Khan steals Peter’s bronze horse
she’s shilling for Stalin; sold some words, amber
beads. Nix swamp below her, nix angular
critics. She’s picking her teeth with their tone,
not their bones. Wolf mama’s slowly rocking
her cradle, in daylight, the pack slinking
grey. Nasty divorcée, a Mandelstam
stone. This statute, a whimsical lyric.
Memorization’s in markets just ‘til
the last man is gone, cigar smoke unwinds
in dank cellar stairs, in dressing-gown sleeves.

Her son washes prison dust off of his
face with her soap made of stanzas, of rhyme.
Cyrillic amphibians stalk her in fever
dreams out of closets: lounge strident, lounge
willful, lounge anywhere else but this brain.

* with the bared teeth of a wolf, from a poem of Akhmatova’s





In nails, groan, moon pulling.
Smote chapel, windows.
A mist, strum tide fallen.
Diagram erasure, rough
centrifuge, lean jamb.

Thrush, dark speech.
Lungs, bone, gelid iris.
Flood drawn, wings.
Scar alphabet, nettled.
Fly augury, ash cross.

In tallis, a rooted
alpine menhir blesses
at wrist, chimes, unstrung.
Shelf lung, new praxis:
a strumming alethic.




Preadamite stem-cell.
Their running gag is a recording
of albatross operas.

Sugar-filled horse,
neurological alembic,
one effigy, cracked in lead.

Boardwalk webbing.
Tarring sand, edible dross.
Three leavings, waves. Stet.