Bird Skull with [ ]

by Alan Levine


There is a hole. [ ] is there, a holiness
around it, [ ] holes in the medieval
mosaic [ ] has been prized
by a crusader’s [ ] The silence left
by the birds [ ] king’s robe
of purple [ ] feathered light
filling the abandoned [ ] river.
The amphora [ ] amphorafull
of museum air [ ] lungs taking
in [ ] atoms
of oxygen [ ] patrons
took [ ] studying a broken frieze
but failed to [ ] passed
back into [ ] The past, a kind of hole
we’re always [ ] we are the hole
the past shovels [ ] into. Oh but we
are bottomless, [ ] unspooling out of us
like bright scarves. [ ] magician
turns the empty [ ] this way and that
to convince us of its [ ] Hold on,
we say, as a pair [ ] appear
from [ ] Hold on, show us again.


Photo:“Herman’s Eye”by Alan Levine; licensed under CC BY 2.0 Click here to read Nick Lantz on the origin of the poem.

Nick Lantz: I write a lot of ekphrastic poetry, and “Bird Skull with [ ]” is part of a series of poems based on imagined still-life photos, so it’s a kind of hypothetical ekphrasis. I also have a long-running interest in blanks, lacunae, and erasures. So those two impulses came together in this poem. I started by writing a complete poem, and after revising it a few times, I erased more or less straight down the middle. Once I started the erasure, I resisted fiddling with the lines to make them “work” in a grammatically coherent way, beyond what I could achieve by simply cutting. As with much of the erasure work I’ve tried, I was thinking about how that technique might embody various kinds of loss, but also how wonder and mystery are driven by a sense of absence, of not being able to quite see everything.

Nick Lantz
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