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Two Poems


It's August. Loosely we follow the arc
    of the monarch.
A pilgrimage north, a pivot, a retorno.
MONTREAL, where the earring on a bough
is genuine chrysalis. Bon courage!
The milkweed it's fed on renders it
poison. In lieu of camouflage.

Resources, by nature intestate
    abound underground the KEYSTONE STATE.
Above, the sanctuary of Asclepiadeae
(see milkweed) is twined with monarch larvae
(a stand-in for the healer's snakes) in its floss.
The forests are a trickery of acoustic baffles,
hemlock (not wedlock), fern and moss.

Though wedlock was not the toxic chalice
    given philosophers' wives, or Alice
when she shrank to a footstool's size,
reality must be what three, not two, apprise.
While a monarch heads toward VIRGINIA
(as do we), I indulge in that which is by
definition interesting to one: nostalgia.

Magnets in the antennae help orient
    the monarch, seemingly vagrant
but espoused to minuscule lodestones.
Mine gravitate to bittersweet zones
driven by memories, not instinct.
Driving through the heartland of sad songs
builds a contract stronger than the one we inked.

We're driving backward through the season—
    no more hint of gold on trees, on
wine-red stems along the roadway; in the South
it's still hot and florid as a tiger's mouth.
My dear, not one of these black-and-oranges
shows their offspring the whole route over gaps
in generations and mountain ranges.

LOUISIANA. The wind's cessation—let that stand
    for the cessation of the stained-
glass tatterdemalion in the grass
who alit on one of us like a sign of grace.
Loosely we follow the arc of the monarch
back to TEXAS, to our own backyard where I
planted milkweed—toward cessation of ache.


It's you I'd like to see Greece again with;
you I'd like to take to a bed of cyclamen.
You know I nurse a certain myth
about myself—that I descend
de tribus d'origine asiatique
and am part Thracian or Macedonian,
cleaving to a Hellenic mystique
after centuries of migration inland.

FULL MOON over the Acropolis.
I can repeat the scene, this time à deux,
as then I had no one to kiss,
slicing halloumi amid the hullaballoo
of a rooftop taverna in July.
The doors that opened to lovers,
pulled like tree roots from darkness, I
close upon us now like book covers.

The alcove in which we embrace
is cool with brilliant tile
and weirded by a dove's note; chase
of ouzo with Uzi, junta-style.
History makes its noise; we duck
till it passes. Love we think is our due.
Not, we think, like the epoch,
the unchosen thing we're wedded to.


Ange Mlinko

Distant Mandate
Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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