Two Poems by Oliver Rice



I pause at a haberdasher’s window.
Over the commotion of the traffic
I hear a passerby say, . . . a relation,
an endangering relation between impaired persons

Strolling on along High Street, I ask the crowd,
Is that germane, weighty for us this afternoon?

Not quite, they say, hustling, impudent,
complying with the communal will.

No? Why?

Because we are normal, they declare,
who know what honor is,
negligence is, remorse is.

Aha. Normal. Do you know of relations,
endangering relations between normal persons?


Why is that?

Because actualities are abused, they announce,
their names thousands of years old.


Corrupted, withheld, denied,
within our extreme selves.

Withheld from each other?

And from ourselves, they confide to their ethos,
which promises them anything, anything.

Aha. Aha.



If it would not be such a pathetic fallacy,
one might imagine her thinking the world is failing.
Or that she had been unaccountably abandoned,

her antique varnish scored,
the ivory of her keys turned yellow,
her strings randomly out of tune.

And for years, now, nearly ignored,
rarely even touched.


With only her hearing sense
to nourish her hypermusical mentality,
her willing spirit disenchanted,
but yearning still,
her strings quiver, faintly, briefly hum
to whatever sounds occur within her space,
a distant bark, a creak of timbers, thunder,

their sources amorphous, anonymous,


occasionally a marvelous kind of music coming
from nearby, just above, it seems,
a large sustaining vibrance,

then quietness again,
a bang, a scrape, a siren, a rumbling


like the sound of whatever brought her here,
her strings jangled by the movement,

from her home, her people, whose names,
Mia, Linda, Paul, she had at length surmised —
just as she had concluded she must be piano —
with whom she had a belonging, a membership,

from whom, with the other person
who visited to show them what music is,
she learned of forte and cantabile,
of Haydn and Chopin,

and from whose radio and television
she gathered an idea of stylistic license,
of Dixieland and schmaltz and folk.

Learned, not least, of talking turned to singing.


From the angers, griefs, affections in whose voices
she ultimately discerned nuances
not totally unlike her own.


At certain times, now, interrupting her reverie,
the clicking and knocking and scratching,
many people begin singing from just up there,
along with the other vibrant music.
She listens for the chance that among them
might be Mia, Linda, Paul,
one or all.


Oliver Rice’s poems appear widely in journals and anthologies in the United States and abroad. His book of poems, On Consenting to Be a Man, was published by Cyberwit.