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Recorded for Poem-a-Day, November 11, 2015.
About this Poem 

“Propelled by longing’s slant, in this poem I pursued a tripping forward relationship between sound and sense where one invents and extends the other as if each new image or address constitutes the plank we’re walking as it’s being built beneath our feet—which, of course, is often how it feels to move through the quick-cut juxtapositions of our lives. The poem is framed by a couple of phrases sampled from a job-seeking letter by Leonardo da Vinci (When the use of cannon is impractical, and My most industrious Lord…bridges) in which he carefully lists some of his extraordinary skills. Not only is the language beautiful and full of the twang of a true alternate reality, but this beauty and resonance is colored by a sense of the outlandish, which is central to the poem as a whole, an outlandishness manufactured and mirrored by us in our jumble of high/low, joyful/sad, succeeding/failing, sensible/preposterous—all held together in a body, by a voice. The poem also samples a phrase from Sarah Ruhl: Here we are in the forest.”
Lisa Olstein

Where the Use of Cannon Is Impractical

Stranger, mislaid love, I will
sleepwalk all night not girlish
but zombie-like, zombie-lite
through the streets in search of
your arms. Let’s meet at dawn
in the park to practice an ancient art
while people roll by in the latest
space-age gear blank as mirrors
above the procedure in the stainless
steel theaters where paper-gowned
we take ourselves to take ourselves
apart. Tap-tap-spark. So little blazes.
Cover the roofs with precision hooves.
Push back the forest like a blanket.
A bird the right color is invisible,
only movement catches the eye.
My most illustrious Lord, I know
how to remove water from moats
and how to make an infinite number
of bridges. Here we are at the palace.
Here we are in the dark, dark woods.

Copyright © 2015 by Lisa Olstein. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 11, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Copyright © 2015 by Lisa Olstein. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on November 11, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.

Lisa Olstein

Lisa Olstein

Lisa Olstein is the author of Little Stranger (Copper Canyon Press, 2013). She teaches at the University of Texas at Austin and lives in Austin.

by this poet

poem

I am working on a specimen so pale it is like staring at snow from the bow of a ship in fog. I lose track of things—articulation of wing, fineness of hair—as if the moth itself disappears, but remains as an emptiness before me. Or, from its bleakness, the subtlest distinctions suddenly increase: the slightest shade

poem

as you round the bend
keep the steel and mouse-skinned
rabbit front left center
and the track and the crowd
and its cries are a blurred ovation
as you stumble and recover
and then fully fall even if
only onto the rough gravel
of your inside mind or outside
in what is