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“Racket on the Petals,” “Hedge Man,” “Vanishing Point Canto,” “Freddie Mercury in Paradiso,” “Jeanne Lee, Conspiracy”

Racket on the Petals


Nectarivorous creatures get their fill and buzz off
uncaringly; the slant of hours encroaches.
A shrub rose drunk on apricot, believing it is divine,
suffers unyielding passionate arrivals and yearns
to be confined, to shorten the sting of life, away from here.

So, the flower alone meets creatures in habit and habitat,
burdened by its scent, its silhouette all season
petaling and unpetaling, swarms of butterflies
doing as they please; no disaster, but what a racket
on the petals, bee-loud wings and hummingbirds vibrating.

How quickly we glissade past biographies—
the double-bloom chalice rose or a prickly wild one on the trail—
comforted by the glut of nectar pollinators drag out,
by a rose fulfilling its design: to be wedded, to exchange vows
without argument and without seeing.


Hedge Man


The gardener climbs a ladder, wiring floodlights
in to snip the darkness off and save us.
We think we are so rich, below hedges
trimmed; we believe in Galileo because we telescope
objects of desire and confirm their centrality.

We have lived here since the fourteenth century.
We are kings of pencil shavings and paper
gaming high designs; we word-build
in Scrabble and weep over apocalypse letters
that won’t weave mechaniv into E or zock in O.

The floodlights swallow all the stars
we loved so much, but made within its shimmer
spotlights of our faces, dissolving behind us
with words and shapes we made at our tables,
knowledge in hand, believing we are so rich.


Vanishing Point Canto


Feeling the imprint of long-
angled light, I troubadour along,
apprehending rich love
in the labor of contemplation
unusually felt, and fall into its tempo;
splendor of nowhere and the beat.

Felicity is the poorest view.
Largesse these lofty years!
The undertaking of the soul—
walkabout ideas ensembling—
to shed all matter, cut my clothes,
be the fullness of what I do not know.

Wondering if the soundings are true
I send out four hymns
to find out what the thinking mind
says life is supposed to be about.
Contemplation is not the project!
Mystery is the echo but not the object.

Face on wrong, eyes out-of-socket,
I speak to souls that hear me think,
seeking fantasia and the if—
savage I live, savage is my exit
drumbeating; paradise is not an easy
place to be; paradise is No Place in me.

“No place” is the Empyrean in Dante’s Paradiso canto 22; the phrase is a pun on exiting humankind and entering Paradise, which is beyond space and time. “I send out four hymns” references Transtromer’s “An Artist in the North,” about the composer Edvard Grieg.


Freddie Mercury in Paradiso

“I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all!”
   Freddie struts across the stage 
in beautiful harmonies of himself.
   Hearing Bohemian Rhapsody again, 
I wonder what it means to be an outsider 
   in the one-act of yourself.  

   “Don’t get manipulated by your public,” Freddie said. 
“You build up a sound, and that’s all they want.”
   If ballad, bawdy energy are what harmony requires
on stage, you’d better prance and sing, or do it gospel, 
  and find your weirdest screaming heart—
each night is beautiful, each moment full of love.

   By now he’s finding harmonies unheard of, 
rearranging his stomping, explosive art in paradisiacal 
   contours, in service to the giant heliotropic stage 
of all pleasure, and all grace, playing another encore 
   to angel’s applause, crooning
“I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all!” 

Diane Mehta was born in Frankfurt, grew up in Bombay and New Jersey, studied in Boston, and now makes her home in New York City. Her second poetry collection, "Tiny Extravaganzas," is out with Arrowsmith Press (October 2023). Her essay collection "Happier Far" comes out in 2024.

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