Assyrian Frieze

Dore Kiesselbach

The good society’s shown in forty yards of carving
stripped from foreign walls. The fisherman
faces fish in such a way that they can be said
to be equal. Grain grows straight under a stone
sun. Parading through the capitol, castes
and classes appear to have found dharma.
Tendons rise as grace notes in horse legs.
Patterns in fabric worn by onlookers
on the far side of the avenue appear
through the wheels of passing carts—
squares with centered dots inscribed
like hearts. Left to right the story
flows, until this panel holds you.
Though you’d reached it in reverse,
the meaning of the place where
people are quieted by blades
would have been conveyed
in clear, contemporary logic.
Beyond the city, warriors have
assured continuing prosperity,
among hirers of artisans at least.
Within—swords being already
out for captured remnants of the
other side’s army—citizens who
failed to line up in time or who
otherwise no longer conform are
being trimmed from the picture.
Because with each blood drop the
heads grow heavier they’re carried off
by locks twisted twice around wrists.
Leaning in as if to locate something
you hear a docent say that music is
depicted only in the place of execution.

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Dore  Kiesselbach

Dore Kiesselbach’s first collection, Salt Pier, won the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize and contains work chosen for the Robert H. Winner Memorial Award from the Poetry Society of America and Britain’s Bridport International Writing Prize in poetry. Kiesselbach has published poetry and prose in many magazines and anthologies, including AGNI, Antioch Review, FIELD, Plume, and Poetry. (Author photo by Karin Ciano)

“These stunning poems feel carved onto the page as the poet recounts traumas—from family violence, to 9/11, to corporate crimes—to give us a portrait of America in our time. Chilling in their precision, and ultimately heartbreaking, these ambitious poems are multidimensional and unrelenting. If there can be mercy in this ‘loneliness economy,’ Kiesselbach finds it.”
—Anne Marie Macari

“Blazing with honesty, unsettled and unsettling, Dore Kiesselbach’s poems challenge us in surprising ways. Sometimes abrupt or cryptic, they reward our rereading and pondering. A calm voice and steady attention are always present, creating trust and affection, as this poet explores difficult subjects and experiences, transforming them through the power of his art.”
—David Young

“In Albatross, Dore Kiesselbach’s poems are tugged between the poles of intimacy and distance, nature and culture. There’s the acknowledgment of personal regret as well as the wonder of human-powered flight. I love these poems: they are written with a biologist’s precision, and they are honest and outward-gazing, uplifting and oh so humane.”
—Katrina Vandenberg

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