Stephen Sandy

Stephen Sandy
Governor’s Place
The great house birch with its girth he never quite
could get his arms around, long felled, at last
only its bark like a larva’s husk in grass
leaning neck-high, hollow below mansards.

He does not live in the peeling mansion, but
a more-than-ample keeper’s cottage beyond
rolled lawns and relics of Victorian elms
where he muses in his study alcove. Touches
the ancient coins, silver or bronze, their gleam
on the baize-topped writing table — proud Athena
helmeted; her owl agog beneath. Eternity
glimpsed in the boy ruler Gordian’s profile,
copper green.
Trees on guard in browed
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Modest Proposals
A longish poem about wallpaper.
A short lyric about discouragement in white.
A medium-length thesis of uncertain importance.
Another sonnet, about scholarship.
A couplet of olives.

A long narrative about the exaggeration of your absence.
Several quatrains about candle stubs.
That old sestina on Isaiah.
Palindromes about Scots presbyters of the 18th century.
Some rock lyrics from Benares.

A nature poem about committees.
Seven heroic couplets about Art Murphy.
Several more heroic couplets on Murphy’s Law.
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Beech Forest
Light from the ugliest lamp I ever saw, here
on the table that triples for reading, eating (can’t say
dining), business on the phone; ugliest except
a few around the corner in that guest house at windows

—plaster driftwood; cylinders like rockets or sanitary
napkins propping shades; thin torso of a youth;
red globe on orange globe, the works, somebody’s
collection. Wouldn’t she love this one, lump of lamp base
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Value Added
No one knew what the stones like squatting frogs
signified. There they were, fuming in rows, out
of the ground; every critic had his explanation
or hers. But—we had to remember—they

came to nothing, every one; those large stones
out of the earth served the systems
of those who considered them, as explaining
something about the past it was important
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Minnesota, May 1945
DMZ, September 1967
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Earth Day Story
I remember the dusty floorboards of wood in the streetcar
Of the Minneapolis Street Railway Company
And the varnished yellow banquettes of tight-knit rattan
Worn smooth by decades of passengers
The worn gleaming brass grips at the corners of the seats
And the motorman’s little bell
Windows trembling in their casings as we crossed the avenue
Liberty dimes falling softly into the steel-rimmed hour glass
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Gulf Memo
Tell me the way to the wedding
Tell me the way to the war,
Tell me the needle you’re threading
I won’t raise my voice anymore.

And tell me what axe you are grinding
Where the boy on the bivouac believes,
What reel you are unwinding
For the girl in her bed who grieves.
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New England Graveyard
Back of the church the busy forsythias bow
and scrape to May and all these blessed stones
stiff in their careful finery of words;
the mess of markers makes me go and browse.

Somehow the blocks of slate and marble hate
to be cut and carved to the dimensions
of Mary Monday’s age and her virtues.
At heart they hurt to be made literate
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Photo of Melville; Back Room, Old Bookstore
I passed him by at first. From the photograph
Peered sepia eyes, blindered, unappeased
From a lair of brows and beard: one not amazed
At anything, as if to have looked enough
Then turned aside worked best for him—as if
Night vision was the discipline that eased
The weight of what he saw. A man’s gaze posed
Too long in the sun goes blank; comes to grief.
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Sewn straw, exact pattern. Fields of rice-sprigs
evenly set, a mile of herringbone tweed.
The town, a sea of gunmetal, fish-scale tiles.

By morning each floor a casserole of pillows,
coverlets, comforters, towels: flown nests. Imprint
of bodies, fading. They fold the beds away,
the room waits empty all day.
All day the bodies
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Student Letter
After the declaration by emperor
to stop the war
many people in Tokyo killed themselves,
for instance, in front of the imperial palace.
But few people knows those facts.

Hence you must teach me
where you got the news or what sort of book
gave you the fact that quite few people knows.
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