Campbell Corner Poetry Prize

Distinguished Entries 2002

Larissa Szporluk: "Anton Od"

Anoton Od


Let's just say there is a planet, an invisible companion to our own. We can't see it but the people of it fall from time to time and they are stone. They hate the water and the sun. They hate the things we love, the animals and trees, things we say we love, and love the things we hate, like featureless concrete. And let's just say there is a boy up there in trouble with his brain, but because his brain is stone, it's hard to make a case, so let's just say he's bad and hates his mother's love, projects a fantasy of sex without enjoyment on himself, imagines wild horses surrounded by high walls, and let's just say that's all for now, this boy who's close to death.


He knew she was hiding a bee. He could hear it
zapping inside her, trapped in the amber
nook that led to her mineral uterus.

He had been born with that sound,
the rain of maracas, suck of a rose, and so lived
in his mind with a wax city, silver hives

of see-through honey, chambers crammed
with princess waste and ice, and would be
almost crazy, brushing her outer stone,

of which he had grown enamored,
like a pilot of a bomb site, fingering the lever-
This century wants anything. Is that a soul?


Her organs were the resins of ancient pines,
rich with seeds and loess, fatal powders
of a lunatic faust, now-deceased meadows.
Anoton spilled the secret-wouldn't we all
to get what we want? He told the king
of her whewellite eyes, siliceous oozes,
his suspicions of a horde of taboo life.
The king had her crushed, the bee handed
over in a moonstone box. But no matter how
hard he shook it, the bee was a silent guest,
a pressure point, a foil, a yellow sponge
that shriveled up in spite of what supplied it.


Her rubble was displayed in the royal
courtyard in cases labeled animal-
or vegetable-corrupted. Her brain,
in a flask of boric acid, zithered the air
like equinox fire, a glowing warning.

When Anoton came, he sized her up
with equal parts of severed feeling,
relieved to note her mental dwarfing.
Then out she went-in clouds of white.
It was his first and finest blanket.



His father stepped out in full obsidian splendor
and swung. "Papa!" The head flew off
like a petrified stork, up through the roofless
house and out of the belt of metallic cloud
that kept the stone race bound, and flew
like liberation through the cold infinitude
that expands inside the living like a cache
of eggs. Does it matter what we're made of?
A grain unfolds, the sun, the same, making
gold of morning. The facts then change: gold
is bad, the sun is pain, the malt black rot,
and all that faith is cut from our first story.


We are held to death like the knife
to the objective, mistaking the objective,
ever missing, except once. Anoton
was just a boy, and just his head,
dark volcanic rock, was falling fast
to Earth with the loud whist of a gas
flame encountering a liquid foe.
Eternal life is nonsense. We who are old
and full of words consent to disappear.
Anoton did not. He hit the base
of an unfished sky and lay, a numb
grenade, gummed with strombs
whose stomachs pulsed and slavered.


The head slept. Only near the end
of humans did it leave oblivion
enough to learn that its once-smooth
chin was barbed with vegetable
life, gentian, vomica, ginger,
that its mouth to the clouds was wide
with his last said word,
and the eyes, though fogged, could sense
the touch-and-go of the domino
waves, increasing steps on its face
of things that were hungry
that had always been awake,
rooting out blow flies, checking dates,
the compromising posture
of a cleaned-out leg, and suddenly
it understood the twinkling.

Passive-Aggressive Music

Crests breaking over his severed neck
dumped salt on his lips and the salt
formed cakes like infected sores.
In time, the cakes became domes,
and gulls set their nests in the dome
umbrellas. But during the midday
summer sun, even the shade there
shone, like Judas' eyes on the fish
at supper. He never wondered where
his body was. He only murmured
to the gull who seemed to know him
something about his mother's pitch,
the sharp injustice of its softness,
and what's so important that it makes
you forget, like ammonia, everything?

Naves and Navels

The sea is the greatest mother.
Even now that we know she is finite and dirty,
we still come back to her rim, admitting
we still belong there, like those to the church
when it's time to be joyfully married,
assured by an airtight seal.

The night the girl was hurled
onto the mountain, the sky was a pulverized
rose. There were walls in the air,
pink, trembling spires. Did Anoton know?
Does anyone know? We who are old
and full of words?

The gardens of Od had no flowers. Call it
the spell of perfume. It takes the wind
of our breath to float a paper boat,
and the damage that follows is real. "The king
has long ears; the king has long ears."
It echoes. We know.



In the late afternoon when the thrust
of the waves turns violet,
Anoton's violets wave. That's how the shade
of her hair is decided.
That her eyes are pins of stars
he is told by the gull-
because he has to know, has to ask,
because the place in his ear
where she lies is phonolithic
and the sound that it makes when her body
stirs jolts him like existence.
He tries to shy away, but can't raise his head
from the ocean bottom. Can you weave
if you are woven?
Can you drown if you are stone?

Things lurk in the pit
of Anoton's mouth the world
has never seen. As the gull describes the girl
over and over, the floor grows warm
and the water steams. Can we
avoid the misadventure?
Is it seductive to obey?
The gull, whose name is Mara,
swoops without warning and pulls a tuft
of the sleeping girl's hair.
The girl doesn't cry, only follows the trail
of theft in wonder. The skins
of the moon are exposed when we behold it;
we call the bloodless bruises seas.
Falling apart is like going undercover-
we drop the sunny side
to find the dirt.