Four Poems by Michalle Gould -The Toast

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Also by Michalle Gould: “Enveloped in whale-lines”

Other Evenings (I)

The vertigo of looking up.
A lady ascends the grand staircase
above – her leg emerges from her gown,
disappears with each step,
like a fan repeatedly flicked open
then collapsed, by some bored debutante
made to sit out a dance.
Abruptly, she turns;
her face startles, a portrait
that is only half-finished,
a ghost-lily wind-spun from
its stem; she plunges into the air
to descend –
a rare act of reverse levitation,
elegant as if she was still on the stairs.
A faint unidentifiable scent
perfumes the hall as she lands,
Reminiscent of roses and almond.
Trance-rapt, we can only watch –
the breath emerges, ectoplasm,
from the hot furnace
of her opening mouth.

The Remorse of Orestes

A cento with thanks to Arthur Conan Doyle and his retelling of a ghost story in On The Unexplained.

No landlady would let rooms to him.
Even his relatives were scared at his company –
No dog would stay with him.

A miserable and despairing man, he blasphemed
against his unseen enemy, the relentless persecution,
So no landlady would let rooms to him.

For fear of driving his sister to an asylum,
he had to leave his home.  “It is hard to be so punished,” he said,
That no dog would stay with him.

He was hunted from house to house by such clamor
and clatter, such noises and disturbances!  “Perhaps I have deserved it,” he said,
Though no landlady would let rooms to him.

He could not return to his home,
Yet he was pursued wherever else he went.
Not a dog would stay with him.

Having committed the greatest of crimes,
The Gods could conceive no lesser punishment.
No landlady would let him rooms!
Not even a dog would stay with him.

Miracles are born out of silence

“Miracles are born out of silence, not in this confusion.” —La Dolce Vita, 1961

“Miracles are born out of silence,”
a wise man told the emperor,
who mistook this for instruction, rather
than the lesson that had been intended,
and ordered the tongues of his subjects
cut off, then went out into his kingdom
each morning, to discover what glories
might consequently have come to it.
In their place, he found only the daily
adjustments of his people to their new
condition; new words added each day
to a language the movements of which
no one could ever translate for him.

Slowly, the emperor came to question
whether there ever would be a miracle.
He longed to share a conversation
with any kind of companion, no matter
their birth or social station. Then one day,
outside the city, he heard at last a lonely cry
and there he found a human baby, small
and naked, holding its arms out to him.
“A miracle!” he said, taking up the child,
vowing to make it his heir – the miracle,
in his mind, being the presence of a tongue,
the infant’s capacity to make a sound.
He had, after so much time, forgotten
that once this had been no more
than the customary way of things.

The Great God Pan

The Great God Pan
has grown tired of chasing nymphs.
Even his flute no longer brings him the joy
of olden days.  His shout, upon waking,
lacks that quality of chthonian horror
that once frightened away intruders and won
battles. Instead, he is able only to sigh
and finds himself seeking not pagan delights
but a deeper and deeper solitude, retreating
to the forests and grottoes, the ever-dwindling
sphere of his once-powerful kingdom.
He follows all water to its source, hoping
to hear a particular voice again – those dear
tones with which pain and love and remorse
are each associated in equal yet unequal measure.
He never does. But when, one day, a shout
is heard to proclaim: “The Great God Pan
is dead!” “Is dead, is dead, is dead,”
a tremulous Echo whispers after…

Michalle Gould's first full-length collection of poetry, Resurrection Party (Silver Birch Press, 2014), was a finalist in the Writers' League of Texas Book Awards. Its opening poem was adapted into a short film for the sixth season of the Motionpoems webseries. She lives in Hollywood, where she works as an academic librarian.

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