Five Poems

by Laura Merleau
click here to read these poems in French

Volcano in D minor
Everything that’s left you
Without telling you anything
Of its secret – here it comes
Through the doorway
That had been blocked for decades
By a large fallen stone

Your first glance frees
A hundred doves
Off to seek the bodies
They once lived in

Already full of mist
Without your cane
Hobbling up the corridor
Lined with pillars three feet square
You’re turning blue

The moon absorbs the rest of your strength

Stumbling over fragments
Of pottery, jewelry, statues of wind instruments,
Such offerings to the living
To appease a mountain of shadows
Resting on sheets of ice

You go trudging along the wide-open road
In a deep anesthesia
Up the slope of a crater
That loves its basalt
As itself, with all its power
Of resurrecting ashes

To free your sleep
Of physical constraints, to draw
In air

The doves confide in you –
You can keep the secret
Of flight until the infinite
Comes to quench
Its thirst

In the snow beginning to melt
Off this summit for the first time
In memory, leaving behind a sound
Of everything you wanted left unsaid

Upon Returning from the Volcano

All day she thinks of
a world without
basalt – where her wrists
aren’t always slit
like the night before
Vesuvius broke
open.  Then the atriums
filled with layers
of ash – underneath
everything became
hollow or stayed
vivid as the burial
night left them – those murals
that had rooms, walls,
ceilings to keep them
intact.  Then came
the diggers – the one
who thought to pour
plaster into the space
she once filled.  Thus
her form’s whole
again – no cracks or
scratches even as
he chips the glass
lava away.


Inside your blue
box, you’ve been pressing
so long against
the green arteries etched
in steel, your left hand
refracts at the wrist
cut off by three
flat dimensions.  Bent
beneath the
lid, your shoulders
refuse to admit
that a steady
continuous pressure won’t
let in a crevice of
pink, red, or orange
sky.  Your purple eyes
can’t ascertain – those are your
bare feet they’ve been
staring at all these years.
Your long brown hair forms veins
down the back of your sweaty
parchment toga dripping
blue ink onto the
illegible floor.  Is it
a figure
of the moon
their blots spell
out?  They’re filling
your walls with
memories of a bloody ocean,
a boat drifting
on the horizon through
an opening in the night
where you found
that impossibly gold
hand reaching
in from outside,
pulling open its secret
little door at the center
of your black heart.

Epiphany in a Primary Color

The blue rain fell
Onto the blue flowers
Scenting the blue breeze

So why weren’t you their mirror

Water would never be enough
For your crumbling
Ruins flanked by
Ionic columns
Opening onto what was once
The interior

To drag such a history
Across the center
Of an hour
Slowing down

To tinge the dark

Blue stamens

Glassy Menagerie

All day, the day’s been orbiting
The phases of a skeleton
Unfazed by a boa constrictor coiled
At its bare feet

How you meant to acquire
Such a fine sense
Of the me and not-me

Down the gray
Misty Avenue de l’Observatoire
You watched the leafless limbs
Of plane trees write their secret
Love songs to the moon
Rising out of its black fish bowl

With arms discolored
From intravenous
Feedings, you unwound
The bandages to read
A glassy tale of surgery
With antiseptically white
Lettering on a sheet of starlight
Reaching through thickening

History unwinding its smoky
Tail artistically about its paws like a cat
Who never rushes through
An open door
The fish darting nervously about
Behind distended walls

How you know their inarticulate
Mouthings the watery limitation
That denies them the power
Of climbing out of
Their world to cross the limitless

Dark growing over fading
Roofscapes backed by a heavy
Ironwork grating
To let in all that radiation
And wave music


Laura Merleau lives in Waterloo, Illinois, with her husband and two cats.  Her poetry has appeared in Jet Fuel Review, New Mirage Journal, and Bloodroot. Her novella, Little Fugue, was published in 1993 by Woodley Memorial Press.