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The Neon Artist in December

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Snow everywhere, like the salt
electrons jump from, as gas snaps
and the tube hisses with light.
I am holding just now the hooked underbeak
of the great flamingo:
cool glass, a little dusting of phosphor.
Just off through the tree-line, the New Year
waits with its bells,

as in the ballroom of the Grand Hotel, stretched
thirty feet up to the promenade deck,
the back-kneed, S-necked mate
waits with its own ringing, its
soft, rattle-whistle of argon.
What a pair they will make: ice-pink tubeworks
north and south on the ballroom floor.
And below: foxscarves, carnations, the pull
and push of the long trombones.

Flamingos! And now
the moon pressing back through the tree-line.

Close your eyes. Let us
say we are children together, ten, perhaps twelve.
I see neon: a steadfast landscape of
And you? Women in cardigans? A certain
leaf tree? Perhaps the gleam

of your dress shoe as you welcome the New Year.
The ballroom is thick with smoke and laughter.
Two birds, of course, north and south. Then
the catch in your breath as an uncle explains
the impact of vapor and salt, how
a light that has never been
curls up through the century—swank,
incredibly still.
Our times, he laughs, and in
from the thin roadways all the WELCOMES,
the PALMISTS and EXITS, all the boneworks
blown to their plush, just bearable tones

curl up to a wing and S-neck.
High above you, cupped
left, right on the ballroom floor, that
ice-pink, still parenthesis.
Then foxscarves. The flick of the black shoes.

Linda Bierds, “The Neon Artist in December” from The Stillness, the Dancing (New York: Henry Holt, 1988). Copyright © 1988 by Linda Bierds. Reprinted with the permission of the author.
Source: The Stillness the Dancing (1988)
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The Neon Artist in December

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