Five Points, Vol. 3 No. 2

Winter 1999

From Philip Levine: “I loved the way Neruda could let almost anything fly into a poem. If you put your hand over the poem you have no idea what’s going to appear in the next line, but somehow he can make it belong.”

Sample Content

Ruth Fainlight

A heap of snow, shovelled
to the side of the road, hardened
by weeks of cold, is netted
in a web of filth like a shawl
of tarnished metal lace
that slid from naked shoulders,
unnoticed, onto the pavement—
to be found and worn till she tore
it or left it in a doorway
by a homeless woman (or did she
drag it from the waste bins
behind an apartment house?)

Such an intricate pattern—
like tire-tracks from that low
slung limousine churning
its wake of freezing slush
and rush of sound: the radio’s
raucous blare as a dark
window slides down for a moment
to toss the shawl out, then snaps
back shut, throttling a shout.

What exactly happens
in that smoke-fouled car,
already lost in a murky
vanishing perspective
of tramrails, wires, telephone
lines and blurred neon signs?
—as if the whole district
was deep under water, cruised
by spiniferous creatures
with bulging luminous eyes,
their speckled pleated gills
and accordion-fins swathed
in shredded nets and fringes
of unravelling shawls.