Sample Poems by Lisa Mangini
Upon Feeding a Pigeon in New York City
I have lured her close enough to my concrete bench
to see the sheen of oily down around her throat,
the twitches of her tail skimming sidewalk grout,
her rhythmic neck a fulcrum between the hunger
inside her and the eyes searching to satisfy it. I break
a handful of crackers, leftover from lunch, and toss them.
Fascinated, I watch her waddle to my scattered crumbs,
her feet colored the flesh of a pink grapefruit. I lean
my head over to watch her, until I'm hit with the scent
of stale beer, old cola. A faint chorus of aluminum cans
chatter like cheap wind chimes. In my periphery,
a man has plunged elbow-deep into trash. Without looking-
I cannot look - I know he is unshaven and ashamed.
If the atmosphere dissolves, it's my fault.
I waste the meager afternoon light sprawled
out on the carpet, my shoes still on, unwashed
hair; young and unemployed and anonymous.
Each day at four, I suddenly lunge for my keys,
drive circles around the January dusk. Over
the bridge, through a neighboring state by way
of battered farmland. A flock of birds departs
from a rooftop, together but wavering like a flame,
or a blanket lifted to be spread over grass.
The elm leaves are still a muted gold; their forest
looks like bouquets of closed eyes. The pavement
erodes beneath me, potholes large enough
to lose control of the car, or concentration.
It's dark enough for streetlights, yet not for stars.
I waste gasoline and time like I can afford it. But who
knows how long this will go on for? Maybe I can.
Bird Watching at the End of the World (ii)
It starts with a certain stillness - a wing
held up at a right angle, head cocked
as if the grackle is watching me back.
It is hard to see clearly from here, but perhaps
he holds a twig in his beak, half-hanging
like a cigarette. Today is overcast but shows
no sign of rain; the grackle's slick black feathers
turn matte under the burlap sky. I have always
imagined that it would be different, that I could expect
sirens and flames, a pathological need to call
everyone I know and tell them for the last time
why I love them: my mother for her chronic nostalgia,
my father for his indignation at kitsch, my lover
who feared no consequence was so grave
as that of being idle. But it is not so. I watch
this grackle, the sagging boughs of white pine
he rests on, and know this from the way nothing
possesses urgency at all, that not one feather
or small eye reflects any light, no pane of glass
from the neighborhood's windows mirror
the world back in outlines of glare, as ghosts.
It is upon us. I was expecting a short fuse
and a loud bang. Of course it is this very lack
of vigor in all things that informs me of this ending.
It is this slow wilt, this calm unlacing of the corset
that holds the world together - that we have always
been slouching towards entropy, without noticing.
The Bridge at Winchester
"I do not conceive of any reality at all as without genuine
unity." -Gottfried Leibniz
I can see at the bottom
of the clouded stream of ochre
two ancient bicycles, chainless
and abandoned, countless clots
of rotting leaves, a shovel
someone will miss in the coming
months of New Hampshire winter.
Water glides over the debris.
A lone goose, divided from his letter
formation, laments over and over-
perhaps because he is lost, perhaps
as a retaliation against their leaving.
The sky sounds like a one-note solo
of a badly-bent trombone.
I admire the ubiquitous indifference
of nature: such fortitude, such
restraint it must take, to be the medium
for all these misplaced things. I spit
my gum, long devoid of flavor, off
the side of this nameless pedestrian
bridge into the river. When the water calms,
I spot the reflection of two maple branches,
Thin as popsicle sticks, arc across the water
from opposite riverbanks, as if extending
to connect and can't quite reach.<hr>
On the other side of the river,
train tracks form a flattened
ladder: wooden railroad ties
perpendicular to the twin
steel rails, parallel for miles
and never allowed to touch each other.
At the adjacent gas station,
a drowsy stubbled man slouches
behind the white counter, on which
a bucket of cellophane wrapped
roses made of felt paper is displayed.
A woman speaks to him
through a plexiglas window
and pays for coffee. It is unclear
if it is breath or steam rising
from the paper cup that forms
a foggy nebula of condensation
between them, their eyes focused
on the coins they exchanged
without grazing the other's hand.
= = =
How far away is air before it is considered sky?