Battus (To Amaryllis)

Oscar Oswald

Once it begins, the score is obvious.White vines with wildflowers springalong the fence, our center. Syntax folds,the ballot shrinks into a coin and flipsthe dews suspend us and we kiss ourselvesand cannot touch our noses. I love listening.What awful noise, that is the bride's a bridewhere we are minor, swift. I bless our fence. Ornamental light. Who's there, a poxto love's decay, a day away from day?As proud participants – a sampled weightof bleeding ray? Her curfew crushed the world.Then it was richer, a corridor to heavenequivalent and loved, an encore. Dove. Where we have history, there is insistentgarnishing with parsley, eveningsof famine, a starlet's bra removedby scientists in drag. And there you are,Amaryllis, whose duck-duck-goose unrollscalling us to wonder. Love's sacred bunker. There are many greens. The machineis self-sufficient. And here I pipe a dropin pressure. Ancillary, I drive belowthe ether, slipping stony thoughts."What's alive is lovely," "Like patterns overtime." Shorelines the aspen flutter, revive,cool beneath some clouds, I sampleWalden Pond this global noon. I say Amarylliswith binary effectiveness:opensesame,               repeat,               open seasonfor the sake of Battus.                        Repeat:Battus. Amaryllis, let speak my eyes.

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Oscar Oswald is the author of Irredenta (Nightboat Books 2021), a collection that interrogates American citizenry and civics from the pastoral tradition. You can read about the book at LitHub, in the essay “On Pastoral Poetry and the Language of Wilderness,” and in Oscar’s interview with Gillian Conoley, at the Nightboat blog. Poems have appeared in Colorado Review, Antioch Review, Lana Turner Journal, New England Review, and Fence, among other outlets. A selection of poems is online at On the Seawall.

"The poems in Irredenta seem to float effortlessly, as if made of wind, the wind the effect of a desire to simultaneously name and unname, and so rescue language from the toxic traces of our difficult moment: ‘the helicopter’s way / flowers the flag / redeems the reprobate / who names discover / this America.’ Oscar Oswald knows that the desert is dry; but he knows also that the ghosts that roam above it are free, ‘a pond blown over be blown back to rest.’ A haunted and haunting collection."
—Ann Lauterbach

"Irredenta adopts the dictions and discourses that thread through America’s complex multivalent history for a sequence of atmospheric poems that critique idyll and manifest destiny and that undo American mythologies. Oscar Oswald is our walking citizen whose ‘fat soul’ travels before and after time. His travels transcribe the winding path of our common song."
—Carmen Giménez Smith

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