Little Black Tangrams


No one felt in the dark for his hat.
No one budged an inch.
Thus the story draws to its end.
No one felt over the edge
of her silk pocket to touch her parking ticket.
No one even wished to
walk out of the dark to the street.


Over the transparent page I traced my name.
I thought about The Bird That Turns Around,
How To Blow A Brick Over, What To Do
While Waiting For The Doctor, Answers To
Problems On Page 2,000, The Chair That
Comes To You, The Mysterious Paper Purse,
The Universe Around Us, Lift To Erase.


Those days everything I thought trembled
through the rotating blades of an electric fan.
The way my voice moved through it.
The way my fingers shook.
I wore a two-tiered hat.
A dead mule is huge.
The man with the stick was fat.


A dead deer has the face of a rat.
Last night I watched seven white deer
walk single file across the black edge,
the levee’s border.
Slowly, each one looked me over,
saw I was sleeping, and soon came closer
to lick my face all over.


All fall I played at being a slave.
In the red embers of fires I made
I burned slips of paper with politicians’ names
to pass the time.
I cooked rich soups of dragonflies.
I learned to aim an arrow
through a devilhorse’s brain.


I sat alone by the water.
They trusted me with the river.
When United Fruit Company boats
headed for port, upriver,
I called out to sailors,
down came stalks of bananas
to snag and bring up to the batture.


When the polls opened until the polls closed
two men dangled their rifles over their shoulders
and pretended they couldn’t be seen.
The men and women who came were embarrassed.
They looked down at the white glare
of crushed shells at their feet.
They looked off into the distance.


In the hot sun on the wooden platform
I stood waiting for the icehouse doors to open.
I wanted to be asked inside
the cool bricks of smoking water, frozen
and squared in fifty-pound blocks,
rattling along belts of silver rollers.
I wanted to be cool and dry.


The women were left locked in the house.
The rifle’s blue-black barrel shone
in the corner against the white, white wall.
Somewhere in the swamps around us
a man threw himself against the dark.
I couldn’t understand why our lights were on.
I wondered if he would drown.


I was afraid of the iridescent algae pool,
hit with glaze after an afternoon storm,
lifted like a giant keyhole,
lit by the great green eyeball behind it,
watching me, watching me turn away,
watching me look back, watching me, for all I knew,
catch my breath, not wanting to give it back.


We walked into the parking lot
after 10 o’clock mass on Sunday.
A car’s blur crossed our path
so close I felt the heat of the sun
in the hot wind off its fender.
They only meant to scare us.
I felt then what my prayers might have been.


That afternoon someone decided to slaughter the   
They held the scruffs of their necks,
whacked their soft brown crowns
with cracked baseball bats.
Each one bled through the nose.
We fed their guts to the alligator
by the shed in the deep, deep hole.


I watched them kissing, kissing in sorrow,
in the sitting rooms in the funeral parlor.
They were drinking cafe au lait
and eating ham sandwiches.
Yes, there were so many flowers.
I didn’t want to be kissed in sorrow.
I didn’t want to be patted or pitied.


The squeak and thump and mist of flit
as someone pumped sprays of insecticide.
It fell over my face, like a blessing,
like a tingling sensation in my fingers,
like a thousand evaporating lessons,
it fell on the oil lamp’s wick.
The flame danced. It wobbled, dipped and brightened.
Reprinted from The Book of Knowledge: “Little Black Tangrams” by permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press Copyright © 1988 by Dara Wier.
Source: The Book of Knowledge (Carnegie Mellon University Press, 1988)
More Poems by Dara Wier