The Catastrophe

Dog to coyote to wolf,
The cry went forth,
Able to Baker to you.

—Henri Coulette

It was dormant awhile, latent
In several pockets, fingered lightly,

Then it was at throats, brandished in the air,
Then slicing through clouds over water,
A drawer of knives falling out of the sun.

Now it is a bloom of fiery tulips,
A shattering of crystal,
And now a hooded viper rising in the air.

It flies off transmitters,
Flickers on tv screens, retinas
And unrolls itself from cylindrical presses.

It is quartered, chopped, bundled
And dumped from the backs
Of slowly rolling trucks.
And it grows. It sits down
To lunch with multitudes, passing the salt.

It tangles itself with music, filters down
With the sawings of ardent violins.
The yellow light of the radio dial is sweating with it.
The conductor furiously mops his brow.

And now it is a wraith of a crack whore,
Spindly and woven of silt and soot,
Advancing gamely on stiletto heels,
Stepping to a jagged tango and thrusting forth
The hollow of her open hand.

My feet are gliding towards her.
My heavy arms lighten and rise to open.

She is whispering in my ear now
And taking firmly my hand:
Look, we are dancing.

Music for Dead Angels: Variations on a Text by Alberti

they fall out of eternity from a sadness
that collects like sludge in the memory
seizing the flared pinions of their wings

search for them
in the insomnia of waste pipes

ditches clotted by idle trash
a trampled star
lost things

for I have smelled them swathed in the sour mists
settling on heaps of refuse

they stare tenaciously
from the empty sockets of eyelets
stamped in the sides of worn-out shoes

in all this
the vacant places

for I have touched them
in the lesser desert of a broken brick

come to nothing from tenement
and wheelbarrow

I have seen them
in those near-human absences rickety,
discarded chairs support

the dead angels
almost weightless

quietly sitting

as if we had some part
in the way they now cannot leave us

Born in Elmira, New York, Daniel Christopher Rifenburgh matriculated at the University of Louisville then served three years as a military journalist in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam era. He received a B.A. from Florida Atlantic University and an M.A. in 1987 from the University of Florida. His first book, Advent, was published in 2002 by the Wayiser Press of London. His second, Isthmus, was published in 2012 by Mutabilis Press of Houston. He has received the Robert H. Winner Award from the Poetry Society of America, the Natalie Ornish Award from the Texas Institute of Letters and several other awards, writing scholarships and fellowships. He lives with his family in Houston.