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Summer, 2008

Ioanna Warwick

   Poem and Lyrics

Short Lyrics--The titles are lines or phrases from Shelley's Epipsychidion.

Even the dim words which obscure thee now

to me are a great city, the wide
polyphonic avenues, the leafy quiet
side streets asleep in their own dream.

Beyond that city, a forest, hickory
and pine, and interrupted shadows.
The first star. The moon paints the ground

like snow. And that’s me, the dim figure
where the road ends. Or goes
somewhere else. In that shroud of light.

I am not thine: I am a part of thee

I will remember you, your arms
the white hem of the returning ocean.
Mount San Miguel glows with sunset
like a rose window lit by centuries.

Now the waves cool like molten metal.
Venus lights a long rippled path. My New
Life that never was, I will remember you
when night breaks in a storm of stars.

My moth-like Muse has burned its wings

From the night’s indigo I carved the dark fact:
we don’t choose whom or what we love.
My moth-like soul, on singed wings
fly as you burn, star-deep into the night.

A well of sealed and secret happiness

When I heard how the monks
plead for the harshest cell, the pit,
I understood my life.
And the weeping within me stopped.


        When danger grows, that which
        saves us grows also.
                               ~ Hölderlin

Then I read Shelley late at night
in lieu of committing suicide,

in last minutes before sleep,
knowing I would never drown –

the water would carry me in its cool
silk arms. My ambition

was to be loved for my mind –
Only Shelley did not fail me,

Shelley with his girlish face,
falling on the thorns of life.
Still I wanted to tell him you never
battle against a wave, but lie on it

as on a beloved body. I had only
Shelley left, holding back 

the sea of sleep, for one lyrical
moment of belief.
In the morning I waited for the bus
in front of a beauty parlor

called “The House of Joy,”
reading for the thousandth time: 


I went to work with unraised
eyebrows, past Golden State

Auto Wrecking
and Wilmington Scrap.


Critics despised Shelley.
How can one respect

a poet who died an incompetent death?
My parents were ashamed of me:

I wasn’t getting
a Ph.D., and lived an incompetent life.

Only Shelley did not fail me,
only Shelley would outlast 

the stench of refineries, the infernal
day and night burn-off flame,

the moon like a tarnished coin
nailed to Jack-O-Hearts Saloon

on the way to Signal Hill
lovers’ lane, the wheezing oil pumps’
music of the place. From there one could see
ten million city lights, Los Angeles

blazing with desire and despair.
Drowning brother 

in the margins of clouds,
yours is not yet a dead language –

that’s why I keep the waves
moonlit, sometimes swim out so far,

I forget
everything, teach my ghost to sing.