Images for Inga
by Kjell Nykvist
after Richard Aldington
Ice encased the rosebushes—
The frozen flowers’ colors
Like fluorescent fish
In cloudy water.
The elk at the water’s edge,
Massive and horned and red,
Look back at the towering limestone
Adorned with lodgepole pines.
The highest of the green needles,
We think, seem to scratch
The azure sky. To this mountain
Of green and grey, the elk are like
Red sparks from a distant fire.
And we are even smaller—like
White specks floating in a cave
Filled with water.
Seeing you there—blue on blue—
Your feet in the warm Adriatic
Is the licking of a pleasure-tongue
Inside my sleepy head.
The merry completion of anticipation is
An empire of catkins sending
Dreaming gleaming grains
Across tender fields.
Fears from the past, at last, vanish
Like a swirl of angry blackbirds:
All that remains of self-loathing
Can fit inside a pyx.
The thinking of strange thoughts, and with a loss of words:
Faint shapes in a faded tapestry, on fire.
The darkness deflected merely by candlelight.
The scent of satiety. On a table,
The cool wetness of empty shellfish,
Bread crumbs, the remains of asparagus,
Two punch bowls of chardonnay.
In the background, a melodic web
Of Otis Redding. Close your eyes,
My dear, and you become Otis, singing.
To a child of winter, the cattails of heat.
To a child of summer, a barrage of ice.
To a child of fall, a pint of pollen.
To a child of spring, a cup of colored leaves.
The rain falls round the patio
In clear lines ending in clear starbursts.
Here is a crystal architecture
Where what is built was never fully designed,
Where what is designed can never be built.
Melting Into Portraiture
The sun perches
On creamy clouds. The day
Through the oaks makes
An adagio. There’s the
Happiness of honeysuckle.
There’s mint. Birds skip about
And thoughts coalesce.
The mind drifts
On the eyes’ sea until
There’s a soft rupture:
Light yellow bleeds through
Fluffy white, pale blue
Descends on green leaves,
Everything moves more,
Moves more in a sudden breeze.
In my eyes and
Through the breeze
A woman stirs
On a green knoll, her flesh
Fusing with a shower
Of shadows sprayed onto
The ground by the oaks.
Her hair dances round her.
I can see
The amber of her eyes
When she stares back.
It’s a subtle refinement of nature,
The ability to shift, to sway,
To change eternally, to tower above
The mind and eyes, only to shrink
Into grains of thought.
And this new woman,
In the wind and sun-play,
Like the land itself,
Shifts and sways too.
As do I.
We each adopt the attributes
Cast upon us by the other. We each
Consent to the other’s vision.
If joined as one
We’d be a kaleidoscope revealing
A thousand moving shapes
Through a single lens.
What is Poetry?
after John Ashbery
A Melanesian girl, in Sami clothing,
On the road to Dushanbe? The glissandi
Of birdsongs, how they’re draped in carmine?
Lake Louise? Or this striving
Towards something? Something
Arcane? Though we plead
To know it and clarity too? Will no one
Envisage the different visions
We have envisaged? Perhaps
They will. But it’s all been shattered
Like a fish bowl striking wooden floors,
The wooden shelving having collapsed.
So what? Will an empire of palm leaves
Still fill the vision of she who sees?
Kjell Nykvist was born in Kalmar, Småland, Sweden, but grew up in Butte, Montana. He earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in Museum Studies from Baylor University. Kjell is currently a museum curator in Houston, Texas. He recently married his long-time love, Inga Stefánsdóttir, who is a harpsichordist. Kjell’s work has appeared in such publications as Poetry Super Highway, La Noria Literary Journal, The Deronda Review, and Asinine Poetry, as well as in several American and Canadian anthologies. (Kjell Nykvist is a heteronym of Bryan Damien Nichols, who writes his poetry through Kjell, and another heteronym, Alexander Shacklebury. Kjell and Alexander’s debut collection of poems, Whispers From Within, will be published later this year by Sarah Book Publishing, a small, independent Texas press.)