I sit waiting for one of the two kinds of miracle:
the thing as it is, or the thing transformed –
which Tyger?–
There are no lambs here, my juicy head –Time
hath made off with the last lamb left – That’s dead –
Anne sits reading the Chronicle in her nightmare clothes – Daisy
glossy on couch – I hear a broom & a hose on concrete – my neighbor,
sweeping his reflection away, no doubt – The photographs are in the album
each face under its plastic, waiting, for the Real, the cheek
crushed to cheek
that the brain might arc the gulf between brains – Orgasm? –
A huge hand comes out of the clouds and squeezes the brain
and lets it go
and it soaks back up what it let – selfdrenched again – astonished,
a mirror in grass –
Is the miracle clarity? – precise definitions instead of this song? –
Which tyger shall eat the reflection? – If I’m to go on
the terms of the slaughter must be known –
Hugeheaded child lying on couch beating her lace collar
under which is the pain in her lungs –
The precise names of the medicines
did not help:
6-mercaptopurine prednisone cytoxin methotrexate dilantin
thioguanine vincristine asparaginase cytocine-arabanacide
At 4 a.m. I wake up on hospital linoleum beside her bed TV
hissing the screen a miracle of chaos not a single word
worth saving they’re all too small throw them back no limit
to errors the faces are under the plastic in the album two
months have passed she’s dead that’s it the scissors lie in
the moonlight on the bedstand clarity is cannibalism –
Sunday – 8 October – 72
Michele now nothing but an emptying dress in the grave.


White day – glare – light on the liars –
Outside the Rainbow Carwash & Lounge
the blacks in ankle-length leather – shoes of shame vanished –
lightning in leather – All the names of the colors
in the 48 count box of crayolas,
listed – Clarity & Vividness joined – screamy with silky –
The books articulate, intact – poodles barking at windows – a girl
at a curtain, reading – a white dress drying in a tree –
ruthless clockshop window & enameled scarlet chinese porcelain egg
on crunchless velvet –
And not one human in the landscape who is not a metaphor –
Everything metaphor except the metaphors – Gesture is sculpture –
The swinger stands fixed in nitrogen
and the brain that talked just an hour ago shines in a jar –
To write this right is to cope with the corpse –
I kissed her in the coffin, the big cool rubber doll in the coffin,
she smelled like crayolas, her face
a Thought –
Hold on  – even in heaven, frozen in gold – in the boneyard
where the clock coughs, hold on – in the marble, safe against seepage,
hold – in the dirt, in the neutral, hold on
that you might be able,
should the miracle come,


I let her go, I told her, me, squeezing the oxygen bag,
Electrocardiagram ink line straight to horizon, no blip,
Precision useless again, Chief Doctor
In rumpled suit no tie unshaven 5 a.m. & fumbling Intern,
This probably his first death, mine too,
Anne in her blue robe astonished, after two years, still,
at the last moment,
Fingers to lips,
The oxygen tent ripped back, the cooler roaring for nothing, me
Squeezing the rubber bag trying to find the rhythm of a breather sleeping
That her heart might recognize, begin again, all the time
Saying to myself “Don’t come back Mouse don’t come back,” her head
Heavy on rubbery neck the veins I’m ASTONISHED
Rising to the surface of the skin like crazed lacquer, One Two Three
Shots of adrenalin straight into the vein,
No response,
Me squeezing now the tears dropping bright on the black rubber bag No
The head nurse massaging the chest a deep gurgle like a clogged trap
“Can’t we do anything, isn’t there anything else we can do?” The Doctor
Stands up, “You can stop now, we might as well stop kidding ourselves, she’s
Gone,” and my head cocks sideways like the RCA Victor dog
& I bend over & her lips part easily & wetly & I give her
the long kept sexual kiss of father
to daughter, too late


Enough is never enough – That voice comes back – Suave shells of gesture
in doors – The photographs just holes full of crayolas, a glare
in a book – Never enough – Anne drinks, pregnant with novel, writes & screams –
Ten twelve fifteen beers, never enough –
Once more smallvoiced prophetess bald and swollen in final months in red
wheelchair spoke the truth & knew no other thing to say & Death ate her
& Death wasn’t even hungry – Well,
“when the sun goes to sleep it makes a hole in its bed” –
There was no key to lock the door no emergency shriek no police the rapist
came in under the door a crack too small even for light to get
he got – Backwards, that – Forward, Michele as a model – Meanwhile,
the poem, for a moment, voice in the gulf, the nightmare articulated, the clock
naked, its back off, blood on the toiletpaper, the experience sung, done,
the brain squeezed then released to drink back up what it bled –
Clarity & Vividness, both miracles, wed – At last –
For a moment –
No more death.


I see I die
To be myself
And fail. Since birds do
Nothing birds
Succeed. We do We quail.
Our lies we sing.
We salt our tails. Boo hoo.
Poor me.
Poor you. The birds are different.
They’re insane.
They have no names. They do not weep.
Their shape is brain.
They sleep their sleep.

If I should die
Before I see,
Poor me.


Golden are the bones of woe.
Their brilliance has no place to go.
It plunges inward,
Spikes through snow.

Of weeping fathers whom we drink
And mother’s milk and final stink
We can dream but cannot think.
Golden bones encrust the brink.

Golden silver copper silk.
Woe is water shocked by milk.
Heart attack, assassin, cancer.
Who would think these bones such dancers.

Golden are the bones of woe.
Skeleton holds skeleton.
Words of ghosts are not to know.
Ignorance is what we learn.


I tell this blackguy
who sits down at the table next to me in Kips
       hey man you dropped your matches,
he just nods, big felt hatbrim over all but his beard and his nod,
and he sees my half-full pitcher of beer and he says
       hey man can I have a shot of your beer?
and I nod yes and start to give him a drink from my glass
when this dude gets up and says,
        I’ll get my own glass,
sits down, pours it full and then takes one of my cigarettes
and says to me I’m busted, disgusted, and not to be trusted,
and I say Well, I don’t know about the first two,
and he laughs and claps his hands softly like
pleased at the innuendo of my comeback and then
the waitress comes up and to his two sort-of-buddies and tells them
they can’t just sit there without ordering something, so one of them says
        hey man, can we sit with you,   meanwhile
I’ve said nothing because look at what telling the dude
he dropped his matches
got me, so these other two dudes slide over to my table
and the one called Larry starts talking, mostly jiveass
lies, one after another stories about pussy and fights
in Chicago and a whole lot of stories about money and I just sit there
staring off real stone-like for awhile then
I pick up the pitcher and get it refilled
and two more glasses, which generosity you dig
these guys don’t even acknowledge,
        so they all pour themselves beer and Larry says
Now Steve here he’s been with some ugly women,
if you want a authority on ugliness Steve here
went into the ugly forest and the trees fell on his
and Larry says, Man Steve he know women hurt people’s feelins
just lookin at em,
and he tells about how he got stabbed three times and
six doctors was workin over him and when that dude stabbed me
I didn’t hardly feel it, it was like somebody barely tappin you
just like this, I mean bein stabbed don’t hurt man it don’t hurt and
I thought shit man, how come this dude ain’t resistin don’t he know
we are in a fight,
and Steve says hmmph occasionally,
and this goes on about twenty minutes during which
time they’ve hardly even touched their beers, which seems weird to me,
so I get up and go to the john and when I come back
they notice me, all three at once, and Larry says
Say man what’s your name, and I tell him and he shakes hands
and Steve says his name is “Steve” and I see his eyes for the first time
under his big turned-down mean hatbrim and the other guy says
his name’s Jo-Mo and I shake his hand
Berkeley style
and their eyes fall on me sincerely, which I interpret to mean
that they dig I haven’t laughed artifically at their jive
unless the story really had wit to it, and they know
most white cats fake it 90 percent of the time
when around black guys and they don’t even have
no talent to their lies, and all of a sudden
we were just shimmering there at the table
and nothing mattered & they were using language
& we were two floors up in this neon place waitresses
in black miniskirts and white aprons and the TV on
over the bar and the Budweiser ad horses rotating in the plastic
racetrack & the guy wiping out the big pizza oven
with a broom on a pole & other people at squares
of wood lit from above tables and pitchers of beer
dots of foam hurrying up & He’s So Vain
playing on the jukebox & Dueling Banjos
& the bartender chewing a toothpick & there we were
outside all butchery
like four guys talking and shimmering on a stage in a play
written by the wolfman
in us all.


Illustrious one, in whom death is the vagrom wound
& who wanders on the wet grasses singing, sing no more
to me.  I have heard your voice plenty & I hunger for health.
Yes, though it is beautiful & seduces, Hush.  Come no more
glaze-eyed to my arms asking for pity then push me aside
when the urge strikes to start singing.  Transfixed
& then unhinged, crazed with the wish to die & then with the fear
the wish might be granted.  I have heard your song
and it shall not drag me yet down with it on the wet grasses.

Illustrious one, in whom death goes on living season by season,
drawing its strength from your singing, lovely
& deadly, Listen:  I will not make myself
dead to nourish the death
blooming within you, vagrom intensity.  Rather than that I’d see
you wandering lost on the white watery lawns at midnight
singing for the police to come get you, yes, even rather
see you staring at a white wall trying to sing the shapes
out of the whiteness than continue this dying together.

Illustrious one, in whom death is no longer a solid block
but a network, sing no more to me of the waterglass & the stopped clock.
Against such songs we’ve crashed enough, enough.
That which was from the heart and was heart’s song
has been transformed, a heartless net in which to sing
is to struggle and suffer humiliation at the hour of death.
You who sing out of the vagrom flower-mouth-wound, go back!
The white grasses will release you, bones & voice & dress
one entity, dignity regained, deathsong left where you leave
your shape on the lawn in the wet blades.  Singing yet.


I’m glad their rouge cream is widening
in the cokebox and their movie
is a liquid camera pupil
like ice cream upstream in a dream
about vulvas.

I’m glad their rash catalogue
is furious with the boygirl
voice of the boy with the brown bowl
haircut that mangles the place
piecemeal with his tiny teeth and his tongue.

I’m glad their shriveled roses
dilate like a fascist fantasy of ants in a fire.
I’m glad they are a Mexico
of parrots melting their crests.
I’m glad their sweet ravings
cream in the gardens of stone.


I woke in the Land of Liars
because I lied.  I woke by mildew
& heard KJAZ come on
in the front.  Out I walked naked,
thinking: why did they throw
the walrus into the swimmingpool
in my dream, what have I done?
Back in the cold bed
down I went in the head. A Beast
or Guilt or Bear
stood up therein in wrath.
No matter the hiding place
he smelled my smell, he dripped.
Ah, it crawled on my arm like imagination,
that luster of ants.


little black star
in the carton,
little moonhook in the ink.
Shine for our brains
that sit sofas & woo,
shine for our machines
that go Tock and go Shutup.
Shine smooth like eel on mud throne saving energy for later.
In the ice cube be a mirror soaked with image.
Shade-hungry, boat-sleek,
be shine and swallow together
so that the brain might father a dot in time worth calling
Worth all this thinking.


Tragic rabbit, a painting.
The caked ears green like rolled corn.
The black forehead pointing at the stars.
A painting on my wall, alone

as rabbits are
and aren’t.  Fat red cheek,
all Art, trembling nose,
a habit hard to break as not.

You too can be a tragic rabbit; green and red
your back, blue your manly little chest.
But if you’re ever goaded into being one
beware the True Flesh, it

will knock you off your tragic horse
and break your tragic colors like a ghost
breaks marble; your wounds will heal
so quickly water

will be jealous.
Rabbits on white paper painted
outgrow all charms against their breeding wild;
and their rolled corn ears become horns.

So watch out if the tragic life feels fine –
caught in that rabbit trap
all colors look like sunlight’s swords,
and scissors like The Living Lord.


“Excellence of Excess
Some Lamb

A first book of poems, and a second, is usually and fairly read “upward”: for foliage, for extension.  Perhaps at the third or fourth book you will take a shot at reading “down” and nose around for the taproot, the nourishing gene; but until then, depending on his skill, a poet can safely sing in the peace and various ease of his motley.  Harmonium, for instance, suddenly comes at you from nowhere like a magician’s sleeve of paper flowers, and only a churl without an ear complains that Stevens is effulgent.  Stan Rice’s first book does its share of noodling, of fine and sensual draping, of solid tricks – but then his second comes down upon the first like a just barely-opened fist, causing its niceties to fly, raiding it in order to capture one familial germ.  A good, sturdy book and then, before it was reasonably expected, a shattering one.

Whiteboy (and it will help right here to understand that the books are published out of order) is pure Sixties.  Its spirit is that of a warehouse.  Rice wanders through, making a check next to each angle available to him:

This may be paradise I do not know
anything is possible does not the rose bloom?
Do not some flowers
eat meat?  Do they not smell like rotted rat?
Do they not still glide through God’s mind fluidly
without rancor?  Ack-ack
crackles in air.  Snowflake is structured.  Death
stoops to pick up
Bleeding Thing.  This may
Paradise.  At the least
it is new.


“Big “ words.  Agitated, immediate, slightly hairy.  Auden’s anxious Thirties are Rice’s nervous Sixties.  But the entire poem can be dated apart from its apocalyptic sensitivities; there’s even a surer clue, almost a trademark.  “At the least / it is new.”  And the poem begins: “All life / has song” – and then three lines later: “Tell it / in rhythmic / continuity. / Detail by detail / the living creatures. / Tell it / as must, the rhythm / solid in the shape.”  If poets who came to age in the Sixties learned one thing, it was that the nature of seriousness had made an adjustment; no longer, in order to validate the seriousness of work, was it mandatory to either be academically laminate or bardically rhetorical: what was required above all was a mystical respect of Poetry’s vast paradise.  Hadn’t it brought together Black Mountain and the university?  What else could have promoted that handshake of eclecticism – Ashbery as the pinky, Ammons as the thumb – that passes as the grip of detente?  When Hugh Kenner dubs classic American modernism a “homemade world” he not only elevates a method, he’s given voice to an enduring ingredient.  Like yogurt or sourdough, poetry increasingly needs Poetry to get started, to keep brewing.  Writes Rice, in “Song”:

The birds do not sing.  The whales
do not sing.  Their sounds are painfully urgent: like talk.
In hysterical restraint
apples fill the tree we call
the Apple Tree . . . .
What the bird sings is bird.  Words
are things.

Rice’s direction is good, it’s impatient.  But where does the piety of the last two lines, as true as it may be, get us?  When Williams asked which sky the lady’s thighs touched; when his poem answered it was Watteau’s sky, precisely the one where a lady’s slipper hung; when the inquiry was then pressed even further – “Which shore?  Which shore?” – and answered again: “I said petals from an appletree.” – should we still, fifty years later, be mutteringly amazed that poetry is a flexible, self-reduplicating machine?  should we still be conducting such obsessive tours of the plant, of the wondrous contraption?  Like the man who buys a Do-All and then gets so raptly involved with the owner’s manual he never gets to turn the thing on.  Rice’s most polished and accomplished poems in Whiteboy are those that pay a heavy tithe to the self-consciousness of poetry – but they’re the least satisfying, too.  Where Rice excels (and if he were less good, this would all hide better, wouldn’t matter so) is where he’s roughest – and if Whiteboy is an uncommonly intriguing book, it may be because a reader gets so naked a look at the poet’s struggle with his facility.  Rice can argue with Objectivism (“Immorality is the repression of potential. / Shepherds, tending little blobs, / tend your shapes.”) and two lines later use Objectivist restraint to stunning effect:

Venus bled seas.
Drops of her menses shine on the golf coure.

In “Getting Lost” he can write a Creeley poem loosened from the basso–

Get lost, she said.
She did not have to give such good advice
I left.

Or, I got lost.
What light!
Until I wasn’t anywhere
I didnt know where I was.

  – into a more comfortable alto range.  In “The Bicycle” he’s a Futurist:

the way things
devicelessly wreck us with their perfect chains
on two oily wheels and wreck our
bodies, that we might somehow
rise out of this twofold spinning or leaning,
happy at last, at rest, furiously at rest,
a thing so rightly joined
the chain and frame
will never pull, for example, apart
from where we are going. All pleats, `a la Marinetti.  In “I Ride The Flying Pig” he’s Spanish, a Gaudi spire:

The brown eyes never change!
He is the flying pig with courage!
No rider can alter his cruel expression!
His little hooves stick out in front and in back!
He glides over the wood!
No one is as beautiful as my flying pig!
Not even the flying lion and the flying jackrabbit behind us!

Rice, then, is a bold and sophisticated writer.  Not immobilized by the frozen hinge of any strict epistemology, he lavishly grants the disjunction.

My cow; my past; my ripped song.
All one imagined WHOMP.
Lie down, lie down, you are a good person,
you do not diminish life,
you will have a wife who loves and in whom you are held
tight, till
both as cows you are led
into a chute and hit.


But there’s a distinct unease (“the way things / devicelessly wreck us ... wreck our / bodies”; plus the lines quoted just above) that suggests a narrative need, a stirring of testimony too large to merely decorate a poem or two.  In “America The Beautiful” are lines that go: “At last / the vision complete of this: that the excesses of today / are the natural resources of tomorrow” – and after these lines settle some, once they stop sounding like the copy for a tony and “philosophical” TV commercial, what we’re prodded by here is the very point of Rice’s stylus.  Excess.  A true Blakean, he’s open to incantation, less in hopes that it will open far vistas but instead, through excess, get him nearer.  The dailyness of marriage

A vain and selfish flower
with combed leaves
is growing downward from my
tip-of-spine.  One day
standing up from this chair
will rip my heart out.

shelters a dread

Yesterday was her birthday
and I simply lay with her birthday

and I simply used her birthday
and turned once in the night

without making a wish
and blew out her hair.

(“Forgetting Her Birthday”)

that isn’t totally clarified until we read the poem titled “First Xmas After Daughter-death,” a penumbrous note that points directly to Some Lamb. On the cover of The Figures edition is an enlarged hence faintly blurred photograph of a blond child of soft features and tentative look.  In the biographical note inside, there’s this:
“Stan Rice was born in Dallas, Texas on November 7th, 1942.  At 18 he married the novelist Anne Rice and moved with her to San Francisco where they both worked and attended schools.  Their one child, Michele, died of leukemia at age 6, which experience occasioned this book.”

We know the frame, then.  Some Lamb’s second poem, “Playing In The Yard,” starts filling it in: short brushstrokes:

Green daddies
can.  Apples in the dustpan.
Birds in the feeder
eat.  They know.  Each spring daddies lost.
The dog growls at the wall.
Apples roll.  It’s the law.
The dog kills the bowl.
The leash has friends.
The apple is in my clothes.
One end loves hair and
one end loves bones.

A dark, innocent shape forms which, in the third poem, “Five Rhymes,” levels the experience down to the unstressed, ribbony narrative of a child’s sensibility (“The lambs went out with little tails / and came back without them. / The tails are dripping from a bough / and dare you shake them.”) and yet, as if with a painful catch of breath, holds back:

I cannot see
through my eyes
the ram that licks
the garden dry.

More than an admitted agony, this reads like a powerful discretion; excess has brought Rice down to Hell, but in Hell your walk is careful, even formal.  One step further than subjectivity, the peculiar language, the sudden jumps, the rounded corners of the work depend not on seeing through eyes, but as though the poems were decals pasted on them: an eerie definition shaping the shapelessly sad.  When Rice writes, in “Lament,” “Cry not, my baby. / Cry. / I know a frog ate a white moth. / The frog did not cry.” – there is a turning-away; the chipped rhythm is self-anesthetizing.  Not until two and three poems later, with “Filthy Bath” (“filthy hospital, filthy waves / filthy wedding, filthy grave.”) and “Dying Goldfish” (“He takes death hard, my goldfish. / He does not see it orientally, / As a continuity. / He resists like crazy. / . . . Last night my daughter woke with leukemia pain . . .”), does the situation tear through its wrap. 
Then it comes on vigorously–indelicate, capitalized, Death makes the entrance it does in a Durer, a dancing skeleton: “A thing, loved one / is eating our air. / It dwelleth in oily hair. / It dwelleth in the chair by the window . . .”

What’s up, Doc?
He says the medicines can make her sing but can’t make her talk.

Meanwhile reality contrapuntally firms:

The body doesn’t lie.
I want to make it be in words, because
To get the poem right
Is to have another baby
While the real one dies.

(“The 29th Month”)

Not so easy here, as it was with Whiteboy, to chafe at the poetry-talk.  Involved in fact and not only convention, these poems seem to invoke the protection of form as if pinching themselves awake out of nightmare.  Our observers’ reactions to the tragic–aesthetic and geometric–sublimate our fear–but Rice is a participant (and victim) and plain statement is unavoidable.  There are, then, two types of poems harnessed here: the desperate and perfect shapes of the decalic; and also the strategic.  Look at Montale’s late work, a masterpiece like Xenia or “I See A Bird” for illustration of the strategic poem: an address to ghosts, an autobiographical runnel that refuses to enlarge but only sinks further down and in (into loss, in both Montale’s and Rice’s cases).  Instead of the self-gilding of confession, there is a logging of occurrence: I did this, you did that, this happened, that–an artlessness whose splendor relies on steel-nerved cropping. Many years younger than Montale, Rice owns some of the Italian master’s fearlessness of being found out; he lacks all coyness. 

“Testimonial” begins:

In the twenty-ninth year
My mind matured
To the point that I could hear
Sounds and see things as though
They were visions.
The occasion, death.
If like people it took breath
Or as leaves the stones exhaled water
That was important
And meaningless.
The lines read like a contract which, once duly signed, frees the poet to press on:
My capacity for belief increased
As my number of beliefs diminished.
Finally the trees popped
Or were cannibalized
And I sat down drunk on the curb
With my feet ankle-deep in the petals
That blew up and gathered there.
. . .
Nothing mattered therefore
But the ambivalence of accurate
Illusions . . .

Note the direction of phrase.  Poetry of lesser quality gladly settles for the reverse–the accuracy of ambivalent illusions—but Rice is pledging to a plain hard bad factualness.  It has to be accepted, not exploited.  With it he stays one bare step ahead of death.

This isn’t to say that Some Lamb is free of defect.  Rice can honk on occasion (“It IS blood, that red stuff. GEE / ZUZ! Somebody dropped the watermelon on the concrete. / Get a sponge.  Get a shovel.  Call God.  Soup’s on.”).  He can be a touch too gnomic:

I see I die
To be myself
And fail.
Since birds do
Nothing birds
We do We quail.
Our lies we sing.
We salt our tails.
(“Poverty: The Birds”)

And no lapse seems more of a frustration than when Rice takes up a worn aesthetic attitude that his other poems all seem to have outgrown:

This blind goat Art
I make wear the ten ton bell
has brought me a cheese, no,
a brain.
So let’s say
the green in the vegetables
Is indifferent to our pain.
My goat stands on its hind legs to eat the cherries
and the cherries do not scream.
Is it blindness
that makes this goat Art so agile?
Whatever you call him is his name.

Shrewd this doubtless is; the solidity of Rice’s bravery and pain has, yes, hung the “ten ton bell” on Art—but koan-ish placidity is disturbing nonetheless.  It doesn’t seem worthy of all the energies Rice has thrown himself into; it buffers his risk.  Rice is above all a duelist; unlike so many of his flatter-, more photographic-styled contemporaries, he fights with his stutters, trips, riffs notebookishly like Ginsberg (White day—glare–light on the liars–/ Outside the Rainbow Carwash & Lounge / the blacks in ankle-length leather—shoes of shame vanished–”), and blurts heart-wrenchingly: To write this right is to cope with the corpse—

I kissed her in the coffin, the big cool rubber doll in the coffin,
she smelled like crayolas

—and you are no longer looking for clean edges, prissy folds.  To Rice’s great credit, what has been blasted apart is never put back exactly alright.  There are loose flaps, piecing:

Is this an ornamental tangle
of Images?  I guess.  Yet so is Sally,
undressed, silk rose pulsing in her pants.
So which of them is less realistic?
(“Irrational Monologues”)

“Excess allures by leaps,” writes Rice—that word again—and his juxtapositions and annealing swing startlingly free.

Reading Some Lamb is largely a matter of strength.  The reader will either be drawn to or away from poems the terror of which, like Rilke’s beauty, we’re still just able to bear.  For me, Rice’s poems about the aftermath of the death, about his wife, such as “Mommie Swims” (“Out of the toilet she comes, radiantly / empty.  Drunk she looks like sylph / all unwound & gouged in the door white”) and “Anne’s Curls” and “Snake-marriage”:

So we both be travelers
Toward the hungry & disquieting center
Slowly, slowly, like the skin of snake
Unsheathes the new wet monster in it.
. . .
             . . . Now in disquiet
We slowly, slowly thrive
On what our luggage closed upon and ate.

—conspire as example beyond illumination, a domesticity past the point of personality.  What’s-what transfigures how-to.  “Being the Undead” who in time “become the half dead,” is to stand domestic time on its head.

Shine for our brains

that sit sofas & woo,
shine for our machines
that go Tock and go Shut up.

Particularly in these poems, where survivor speaks to and of fellow survivor, Rice is able to blend the decalic and strategic; like the open, wide part of a scoop, the concept of excess makes a mix of the two.  And thusly refined, Rice’s language lacks the fetters of bitterness or premature conclusion.  Some Lamb stays an amazingly open book, against all the odds of its subject, and never more so than when it rises to the utter astonishment of grief:


Look! she is dead: no cover can cover her: look,
her hands are dead just as her face is dead: all of her is dead:
where is the soul?  she looked no lighter on the pillow when it went.
My eyes fill with water that falls from under my sunglasses:
when the bells ring: even the oxygen grieves:
surely this is not what she was meant for:
look!  a shaft of light pierces the dustball: just that effortlessly

she went.

Parnassus: Poetry in Review
Fall / Winter 1977