SPOTLIGHT: City of Shadow & Light (Philadelphia) by Diane Sahms

Iris Reads Poetry into the Void

Iris, tall stalk before shears,
rhizome’s roots as heart’s arteries
spread deeply through underground
circuitry pumping life
inside unseen darkness.

Vulnerable dark purples open
soft as velvet
zebra-veins thread through;
lavenders erect
as a high ruffled collar,
tickles air.

Decor of delicate thin yellow hairs,
prickly as beards,
crawl furry caterpillars down
into the throat of the messenger.

At this reading—no one in attendance.
Sick glow of garden light, night
resembling Gethsemane.
In an adjacent vineyard,
intoxicated swirls weave
crown of twisted laughter.

In dank air, each poem Iris reads
a stake of pain into palms.
Pounding thunder vibrates.
Torn canvas tent spills waterfall.
Glazing rains slanted transparency

slides torrent over red bricks to form
an appearance of blood streaming.
No dispersion of white light.
No full spectrum of wavelengths.
Only abyss of empty air, mist.

Iris’s Mind Eclipsed

Ghostly chimes of time’s disremembered—
awaken, roam, haunt Iris’s mind:
sounds resurface, motion of madness.
A tumultuous pulse beats wings
against elapsed thoughts like a sparrow
trapped between panes of glass.

Depressed relics locked away in a dead
heavy trunk that had peacefully slept
for a spacewalk moment—
earth wedged between sun and moon
eclipsed lunatic ways, almost
ending all roots of misery, until

the hinged trunk door opens
and finds forgotten—a time
and place where Iris no longer exists
the way that she once did—
things dredged up, frightful
and half-dead

a still-beating heart and pulse—
limp as a mouse in the jaws of a cat.
Hidden past now infused
into the present
climbs the attic ladder,
rummages through relics,

black and white photographs,
trinkets as old as Disco.
Mind’s swinging
full moon pendulum
eclipses solar light,
until all is black

until madness swings forefront
stands on the edge of existence
carefully studies the stars
avoiding the plunge into the abyss.

Iris Observes a Sparrow at the Apex and Remembers

Today, cold December sun streamingly rushes
bright radiant light downpours the stone wall,
where a sparrow clings in the mist and Iris
wonders what it is holding onto. A flat wall?

No, not entirely, there is a high raised relief
an embossed concrete line which it clings to
in mourning light much like a Mycenaean
stele marking the borderline between the world
of the living and the world of the dead.


Dark-cloud eyes flashed thunder; and lightning
must have struck open her chest because a sparrow
was pecking through the bloodworms of death.

Humble print of the Pietà hung; and from
Madonna’s eyes, tear-shaped garnets fell like
a broken string of pearls spreading hopelessness
all over the Carrara marble corridor.

Over-stretched leather covering of her heart
drummed out a faint death-beat march. Not shaking
of a rattler’s tail, but a dull-weakening beat.

The line on the monitor’s screen flattening.
And there was nothing for Iris to hold onto.

One large lethal tear slid dangerously down
rode over the high horseshoe cliff of her chin
the way a black and white movie once shown
a man inside a barrel riding over Niagara’s
rushing-white-waters shattering into the sudsy
foaming jaws of splintering death.

The shivering sparrow pressed against stone—

Iris Dreams of a Cage

In the locked cage
of Iris’s dream
memories preserved,
but they were not hers
they belonged to someone else
and as she looked closer
seeing through wire mesh
saw that this couple had saved
their shoes (his and hers)
they wore immediately
after a cherished moment
to be preserved forever
like a porcelain figurine
of a couple frozen
atop a wedding cake
iced in happiness
at least for that moment
of suit and gown
after Mendelssohn’s march
and then placed out of view
collecting dust upon
an unexamined shelf
in the study
of someone else’s life.


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