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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

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We bring the world to bed with us,
its weather, its moving maps,
and its wars. When the staff told
the grieving chimp, tomorrow
they’d bring her a baby, she understood
her baby, the one three years ago
whisked inexplicably away,
not any baby, which is what
they brought. Of

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The one right in front of me
on e-mail, a chain message
forwarded by my mother
on the first day of this new year.
She’s tangled in nets and lines
and there’s only one way to
get her out, she tells us
with her bathtub-sized eyes
one at a time because we
have to swim

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One way to think of it is
I require absence and you are
lifelong a room just left. Except
you bloom not empty half-light
but a stand of trees at the edge
of the meadow where my life
leaks out. Static is the soundtrack
of the cabbie’s dream but oh
how we love our troubadours,