new haven, ct

31 MARCH 2009


A Tryst
Imaginary Prisons  
The Impossibility of Crows
Organ Music

About Justin Sider



a tryst

Ogunquit, Maine

I waited on the thin, rocky margin
          above the sea. Blocks of granite tumbled
into the water, and tangles of sea roses

          and bayberry leaned over, damp, gleaming
from the spray. Waves overtook
          a hundred little pools and channels that ran

through salt-eaten stone. Above my head,
          the sun bore down on the battered shore,
and when the water receded, I could see

          how each pool was an ocean itself—snails
mapped the scarlet algae, lichen laid down
          their flattened umbrellas, trenches cut

into the gaps where boulders met.
          Then the sea spilled over, the pools obscured
under the solving rush and simmer of foam.

          I clambered down to the rocks and knelt
beside a winding canal skirted by purple
          strands of Irish moss, and green snail shells,

as though an olive tree had dropped its fruit there.
          Clusters of black mussels dragged the center,
catching seaweed pearled with oxygen.

          in the late afternoon light, I knew this
was what you would love best about the shore,
          its constant measures of adornment, bright,

fluid and fragile. I waited until dark,
          and each hour saved from silence by the sea.



imaginary prisons


You find Piranesi
Everywhere about his prisons
The center that moves
Without circumference

Inventing the stairs
That carry him to yet
Another room
And when he speaks

The words lisp
And chatter like
The stars turning
In the mirror by your bed


How long have we
Watched the long-limbed
Figures at work
Beside the wheels

Let them lead us
Up and down stairs
Our feet scuffing the tiles
As the spokes click

And the bridges rise
Among these great chains
Iron rings
And cantilevers how long

We write each day
On the nearest stone
And rub it out
With our sleeves




He turns the coarse wood over and over
In his hands. A horse, he tells us,
With a ragged tail, kicking up dust.

The rasp of the blade on cedar. A smell,
As he carves, that hints at something lost,
Half-remembered—the attic door

Unopened, albums thick with photographs,
Old toys; and hidden somewhere in a box,
The earrings you gave her, two perfect garnets.

Expectation, too, as the shavings
Collect around his feet like auburn curls
Around the column of a barber’s chair.

At first we see only the roughed-out shape
Of a horse, standing, perhaps, at a trough
To which it drops its head. When we’ve given up

Watching a while, it’s off like a shot,
Legs blurred and tumbling
In his careful hands. The knot of cedar

Ripening under the blade. Slivers of wood
Keep falling, and after each stroke he pulls
The knife across a strip of dark leather.

To get the figure closer to what he sees.
To make each cut less deep, more precise.




the impossibility of crows

Tell me, cognoscenti of crows, why they sharpen their beaks
in the dead, yellow grass, browsing the indices of summer;

why they pull worms from the matted lawn to clip them
in half like Chinese noodles, and smoke their cigars.

Black walkers in the afternoon’s gray evening, they turn
and turn beneath the poplars when the air smolders

with the smell of rain after the rain and the cars passing
hiss along the curb and out of sight.
                                                    Let them turn,

disclosing their dark element against the grass, laughing
raucously, like drunken kings, laughing and spilling the wine.



organ music

What creeps in gleaming October
Through the fields of squash

Washed over with mud and dried again,
Spackled and cracking, plaster casts

Where they’re plucked from the earth
By children shrieking for Halloween?

What is this feeling like the frost
That forms only in the cedar’s shadow,

The spaces between the tumbled fieldstones
Where the spider’s cotton egg-sac sticks,

Sliver of birth in a cold jaw?
When its fingers are on the stops,

Am I pressed?
                      The light receding
Reaches us less and less, O trembling degrees.



is a native of Granby, Connecticut.  He received his BA in English and Philosophy from the University of Connecticut and his MFA from the University of Virginia, where he held a Henry Hoyns Fellowship in Poetry.  His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Southwest Review, Mississippi Review, Indiana Review and Tar River Poetry.  He was a finalist for the 2008 Mississippi Review Prize.  Currently he lives with his fiancée, Laura, in New Haven, where he is pursuing a PhD in English at Yale.