Wednesday Mar 29

Margot-Schlipp.jpg Margot Schilpp's two books of poetry are The World's Last Night (2001) and Laws of My Nature (2005), both published by Carnegie Mellon University Press. "Optimum Conditions" is from the manuscript of her third book, Civil Twilight. Poems from the manuscript have been published in American Poetry Review, Bateau, DIAGRAM, Poetry Southeast, POOL, The Journal, and others are forthcoming in Boston Review, Cincinnati Review, and Valparaiso Poetry Review. She lives in New Haven Connecticut with her husband, Jeff Mock, and their two daughters.
Optimum Conditions
Out the back, the river bed
            a deep flow of hair, a nest,
a break in phrase and dance.
            Find the crack and mend it.
Flax, feather,
            an idea
under cobalt and violin,
                        the circle of straw.
The egret stands on one leg,
walks nowhere. Flight
            is merely some late geometry
practiced too soon. Silt
            fills the grooves, then fills
the memory
                        of grooves.
                                    If this were music:
up-tempo, cheer
            and boundless waves
choreographed into arc,
into plume and beak.
            If this were hue:
chartreuse glinting
            under yellow, the sun’s
twin dressed better.
            I keep a veil
                        and sand
under the kitchen sink.
                        I keep trying on
other lives and finding
            no fit. There used to be
citrus groves for miles, constellations
            of lemons, galaxies
of oranges
under the sun.
            An aqua convertible
                        lurches through
the scene on its way
to Havana,
            on its way to Miami,
            suicide doors and fins,
an imagined song drifting
            from its radio.
upswing, a torchy standard
            silkening the mood
into cool
                        or almost like
            love’s bones
            The shore, the canal,
a violent storm washing
            in shells that don’t belong.
It’s a travesty and a miracle—
                        you see the chips
and grinding
            from a quarter mile away.
Sweet-tempered money
            spent too fast,
                        and it’s all
washing into a tide-pool:
pocketknife, a camera
                        broken from its strap.
Vacations end in the strangest ways,
but after folks go home
            there’s still salt here,
enough to preserve
                        a way of life from passing.
The sun stutters,
                        behind a cloud.
            The light changes,
then changes again.
The bird’s balance wavers
            but she steadies herself
and returns
            to poking her beak into the water,
            for the reward she knows
she’ll find
            just below the surface,
                        given the undertow,
patience, and the wind.