Post Road Magazine #23

In Escher's Rooms

Daniel Tobin

If I walk this fugal promenade, descending
unending stairs, chanting to myself by half-turns
my burning prayer, I would meet myself ascending
each pending step, and I—I'm one note in the scale,
trailing myself in a circuit around the rail
unfailingly, forever, in the confluence
where sense in its slow wave breaks up and down at once,
while one sitting apart stares into the ether,
out there, at what? Geese in formation? Xanadu?
The galaxy in a leaf in a drop of dew?

Sphere, sphere, let me look closer at you, mirror-globe,
hold you in my hand like my eyes' fruit, forbidden.
Bidden, I will see what I see inside each globe
doubled to infinity by redundant eyes
the size now of suns spinning their own Mobius
Narcissus—the hive of me; or, rather, my eyes
seizing what's watched escaping while they multiply,
ramify with this room, its light bulb pendulum,
lamps, tables, books, chairs, that far-off open window
I would climb through if the world would just stop bending.

What gathers along the grid to give it lift-off
softens on a latticework of atom to stone, stone
to crystal, lizard, bee, butterfly and fin,
finished and furthered in these lean tessellations
stenciled as if on air where in ribbon heat waves
helices weave invisibly envisaging birds.

This glide of geese flickering out of quilted fields
yields day and night, twin towns, a fulcrum array
of shade, the time zones of our mirror rivers
for whose selfsame mouths our boats will now wend away.

Inside the Never-Ending of this fractal cube
the viewed go on about their worldly business.
Butler, laundress, lug, lovers at one remove,
move in a clockwork of kaleidoscopic stairs
—air's quantum quandaries, its seamless fractures—
faring forward as in the compound eye of God.
Go, this tight maze beckons, through the open portal
to where the zigzag course circles to a waterfall
forever its own source. Listen: the pash and balm
of tile on ink, the deft palm palming the palmwood.


Daniel Tobin

For Alice Kociemba

The sun on the water is an open palm.
Saw-grass stills its lances on the sand.
The boats are nodding in a heavy calm.

This scene could be an otherworldly balm.
Bright hulls trace their colors to the strand.
The sun on the water is an open palm.

The gulls themselves have given up alarm
And float suspended in windless air and
The boats are nodding in a heavy calm.

No swells, no surge, no dissonance of storm
Drumming bluntly from offing to the land:
The sun on the water is an open palm

That gestures without moving, no quest or qualm,
Just stillness insistent with a soft command.
The boats are nodding in a heavy calm

That feels like the notion inside a psalm,
Lightness lifting everything like a hand.
The sun on the water is an open palm.
The boats are nodding in a heavy calm.


Genesis 11:1-9

Daniel Tobin

Life in our fortified huts brooks easy, though wind
bears down, bears up under heaven's frumwoerc
with its formidable fyr guttering earthward
from the sky-road again—a rocket's weird glare?
The pixel-hearth warms, coddled as we are,
while behind us our assay with its hoards
rudders on: the worm of us with our man-price,
word-price, and all the far tofts diminishing

whomever the wealas, whomever the "stranger."
And we, strangers to the strangers in ourselves
shadowing us through the thickets of language
like the code of some lost, primordial cousins
watching their terminus stride across the tundra,
fare forward with mongrel, omnivorous tongues,
adaptive, flagrant. To enchain syllables, and to lash
the wind are equally the undertakings of pride

Dr. Johnson wrote. Though to lash and enchain
or, as Webster mused on this late shore, to enjoin
some intercourse with tribes, in Europe wholly unknown
keeps the dulcet prow buoyant on its course.
Kayak, totem, chipmunk, moose, tote, banjo, juke,
make their music in the "Native Grand Opera"
with schlep, hex, hoodlum, shanty. Brogue-speakers wear
a shodden tongue, but it skips on, and bling

has become de facto. While far off, the Monchak
slog into wastes, chochtar, against the current,
their one of many words for go before their gone.
And the Nivk with their multiple names for pairs
de-couple from the planet's itinerant train.
Come back, Pomo, with your computation by sticks,
infinite sticks in the mind, your great woven creel,
the last ten of you subtracting, k'ali, to none.

In Siberia the Tofa, just thirty of thousands left,
still round their lives by the moon's nomadic light,
Hunting with Dogs Month, Gathering Birchbark Month,
and ride the castrated reindeer beyond the ice to join
the Morovo where the snake they call ground-fish
parses to a school that aggregates, uduma, to a
single body, or moves, sakoto, the way mourners
in procession almost undulate in their grief.

Always these grim goings—how the women
keen over their bombed, their broken, Habibi,
and the world become suddenly unspeakable.
You can see it, now, in the shelled look of the girl
cradling her fiancé back from war, his skull
a fissure where the shrapnel shrieked its expletive;
can hear it in those primal stares without sound,
huddled forms in a cave by the edge of a wood—

Habibi, Oh my Beloved, Oh my Dear One.

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