Brian Tierney

U-Turn
                    a cento from the work of Max Jacob

In my head a bee is talking: a trickle of water: so many faces,
so many stations—
                    & in these scientific cities, crowded
with butchers: a beautiful road, waiting for the house
to be rebuilt again.
                    It happens, when you exhale,
that the material world wakes up the other one, between
the great, sad sky
                    & everything full
in the desert of art. Looking back, I see loose ends. The door
is still standing, a
                    port at dawn, under the sky
that’s everyone’s. And they are less beautiful, the stairs—
less beautiful, going down.

Note: This cento is drawn from Jacob’s Selected, as translated by William Kulik

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Inventory
                    family ‘estate’ sale, Wharton, NJ

[X]     brown glass bottles for medicinal elixirs; one glass          boot-
          flask (Italy-shaped) pre-
                                                            Mussolini maybe
                         “Porgie” Concetta’s, a Sandellini
                                                                 on my mother’s side;

[X]     “there are poisons that blind          you, & poisons that open
          your sight”—          inscribed
          inside a seminarian’s bible (my father’s)

                                                       misquoting Strindberg;

[X]     a Reagan bust          with eyes shut, or          otherwise just
          ambiguous-blank in this miniature casting
          I once tried smashing;

[X]     full-size Italian flag; full-size Irish          flag; American
          flags full-          mast on cocktail toothpicks
                                                                 for olives;

[X]     $5.50 sells a horse-          hair rope-ladder touched by children
          who delivered The Bomb
                                                            or,
                                                   at any rate, helped to;

[X]     22 wine-blue volumes          on the falling of the Germans
          (price to-be-determined) my grandfather’s
                              of the bomber division w/ furloughs
               in Glasgow (he never ate lamb
                                        or pudding
                                                       skins again);

[X]     “History will be kind to me          for I intend to write it”
          embossed upon this replica pen          Churchill’s          pen
                              gold-tipped,
                                                            as though *power were its
                                                                                     secret;          *(not power,
                                                  but what can be done
                                                                      with power)

[X]     I never make mistakes in black          half-faded ink: a novelty
          eraser          (my great-grandpa Paddy’s
                                                       of the Picatinny Arsenal
          & drink—of four weeks’ asylum time singing
          his father’s Sligo rhyme          for the dolmens
                                                                                     left behind);

[X]     a cheap print (99 cents)          in faraway perspective: a first
          ferry trip on the Staten Island
                                        boat of many          faces;

[X]     pearl-white Parisian beads a Notre-Dame tourist’s rosary
          coiled          in an ashtray (post-Vichy)
                                                                                resembling a poppy;

[X]     bird-bone necklace (bought in Poughkeepsie at a pigeon-
          shoot trinket-          booth) displayed for you
          un-ironically on an eaten-through, sky-          blue
                                                                                               linen;

[X]     a crude map, vintage          at that, 1900, lower Manhattan:
          Ellis          Island in a soft-          lead          circle;

 


Brian Tierney’s work has appeared in, or is forthcoming in New England Review, Kenyon Review, AGNI, Best New Poets, FIELD, Gettysburg Review, Poetry Northwest, and others. A former Wallace Stegner Fellow in poetry at Stanford University, and a graduate of the Bennington College Low-Res MFA Writing Seminars, he was named among Narrative Magazine’s “30 Below 30” emerging writers in 2013, and was most recently a finalist for PSA’s George Bogin Memorial Award. He currently lives in Oakland, Ca.