I. Dorm Room
Theirs is that special condition of plenty
available only to those with nothing
on or between them. It’s as if they’d been
out in the downpour, bodies wet as
that—but they’ve stayed in all day. Again
he studies her nape, fingertip-tests her hip.
He thinks her very young. Eighteen. He’s twenty.
II. Basement Lab
The entomologist drops into a pool of light to peer
at the magnified maxillae of a rare beetle
while something lackluster raps the dusty pane
above her head, a passing fluster of drops
hardly worth speaking of as rain;
she bagged this firebrand, Pyrophorus ignitus,
on a slope that catches two hundred inches a year.
III. Rectory Study
A working drowse having overtaken him
in the middle of a chapter, Father
Ciprielli, who has led the boys,
his fresh recruits, into Gaul every fall
for forty years, now shuts his eyes.
The same grammar that carried him off will,
when it slips from his lap, soon, awaken him.
IV. Halted Train
It’s too perfect: can the small boy on the train
really be an OTTO (as finger-printed
on the steamed-up window), a name
not only palindromic but bilaterally
symmetrical—and therefore the same
for his two circles of readers, those in the warm
interior, and those reading backward, out in the rain?
This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 25 Number 1, on page 73
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