Saturday, January 1, 2022

Rob Manery : Two poems




A Lute and a Lyre
for Nicole Markoti

Would you know the difference
between a lute and a lyre?

Did he radiate the terror
that prevarication brings

when replying to such questions?
Yet the quality suggested by

a pneumatic drill does not quite
accord with the liar’s paradox.

Were you, perhaps, a ringside
paramour? All her

autobiographies suggest
a casual lust, although

vapid desire might also be
suitable in these occasions.

What tends to be spoken in such
moments automatically

defers to idiomatic
equivocation. If you

prefer a jump-start, I would
suggest the quail skewers.

My insides are out of order.
My outsides depict a man

comfortably in his 50s,
although the dinner jacket shows

signs of wear. Perhaps we should
signal for car service. From

the far side of the lot, it
was difficult to get a

visceral sense of what went
awry. Still, we squinted and


wondered at the long ricercar
that shocked and left each of us

somewhat aghast. An astute
listener could discern the treat

of a clandestine fugue, but
if it were me, you wouldn’t

have recognized the frugal
treatment afforded to this line

of questioning. A quiet
adagio can carry

far, but formal attire yields
despairing discomfort. We

all want to cry but wont of tears
is teased from the unsuspecting

attendant who smirks while
suggesting a coat check. For

if we admit ghosts, then
this hotel is teeming. And if

the planets align, do they form
a quixotic team coming

together to be set in
popular songs? If I doubles

for us and you doubles for
them, then who doubles for those

who didn’t buy the book? Now
that is something to sneeze at.

We may have to double back,
finding reason, but no rhyme.

And yet he rhymed off his reasons
with such detachment, the echo

subsided almost as quickly
as I read the onscreen news

screamed as though doubt was left to me.
We decided not to attend

the performance which was
nevertheless unavoidable

and deemed the matter closed, or
perhaps I am mistaken.

I’ll have to get back to you, but
did you mean me when you said ahem?

Was it the knees that tease
from the far periphery,

and your rhizomes that tasted
of tar? Do you remember

just how far we have gone? And
so we strained for a hint of

a motive or a suggestion
of harmony before the horns

came walking back into the picture,
but there can be no coda.

He liked a twist or at least
an unmet expectation.

A motet to arouse an
emotional shrug of the

shoulders, a crossing of the
arms, or even a craning

of the neck. What is left when
the music ends? A small sedge

of cranes by the shore, seeming
to exhibit complete

disinterest. Is it such
a problem to believe, when

watching the sunset, that the sun
will appear in the sky again


tomorrow? Do you prefer
a king’s pawn in online play?

The delaying move failed yet we all
witnessed the hesitation,

more becoming much less. An
analogy to armies

will only, my friend, stymie
appreciation, more struggle

than dialogue, a responsive
algorithm. For weeks we

awaited Fred’s reply, the
ritenuto fell into place,

but such a tremendous fall-
ing. The alteration between

tension and release witlessly
breathed yet shunned. He suggested

tweaking the lease, but the ricercar
returned. They seemed a bit fried,

yet flexible, lax even.
Our seats were in the wings

and with a wonderful air of
ease one leaned into the sense of

staggeringly sustained sounds;
we now were fewer than when

we began the film, the questions
no longer lengthened the lines

that sent us to seek in other
works a particularly

permeable yet arresting



for Ted Byrne


No ought from
a gee whizz,
not from an

if only either.

With only a
scant familiarity,
his parents


on Ulysses.
The sycamore’s
obligation, if you

will, differs from

the owl’s, yet
neither it nor
the sparrow

sees the similarities.

As a child, he
would seize any
opportunity to

slip the knot

leaving none the
wiser, but
got on without

a dropped word.

From a bird’s
eye view such
machinations are

achingly acute,

if the owl’s grief
is measured
against the


From early on, we
grasped a rough
intuition, a raft

of rules not quite

a code. A coddled
owlet – this hope
becoming a nested


An old woman
reading Beckett
on the bus.

What was

I supposed to do?
Waiting for neither,
by god, it was

difficult to live up

to his name, dispossessed
as he was of courage,
cleverness, and conceit.

Consequently, the heart

of the problem
was not easily
pierced, grasping only

a blunted understanding.

I kept my knives
in the knife-box, gently
rubbed my hands

and whispered something –

something about flesh
and wine, but my
companion began

to sing. One does

not need to be
a saint to break
bread with the poor.

A poor comparison

made poorer still
by the single-minded
conceit; a sympathetic

glance is no

substitute for a
continuing contract.
We were barely

noticed when we

slipped in late,
with time to fulfill
our familial functions,

a confessional

monologue missed
all my marks. We
left over-nourished

but under no

illusions that an
enlarged heart is
the same as a

generous one.

At this stage
any strange
deposition is

unwelcome. No

edicts either to
deter fate. The rough
ground is not

to be smoothed

bit by unbidden
bit. He answered
the call, or rather,

there was an

answer to a
call, side-stepping
the scorpion’s


Well then, what
account can you
give? To chase

the response,

you must return
the call. His parents

were forgiving of
all but him, or

so it seemed. Did
you turn down
the offer? For what

it’s worth, the antidote

is not always laughter,
while the anecdote
you are seeking,

even after we’ve

forgotten the imagined
freedom to take the
time to carefully

consider Kantian imperatives

from the swallow’s
perspective, pondering
the malady most

likely to curb this behaviour.

The road might not,
in fact, be as hopeless
as it seems; nonetheless

a habit is not necessarily

an addiction to its
demands.  As the sparrow
flies so the cure for

prescription. Sometimes

the journey is immaterial
when being there is what
matters most. If there is

no ought out of is

from this,
what if
a simple delight

in the dilemma.




Rob Manery lives on the unceded territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Səl̓ílwətaʔ/Selilwitulh (Tsleil-Waututh) Nations, where he is the editor of Some, a print-only poetry magazine, and the author of It’s Not As If It Hasn’t Been Said Before (Tsunami Editions), Richter-RauzerVariations (above/ground press), Many, Not Any (Some Books) and the forthcoming ELEGIES (above/ground press).


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