Lee Slonimsky: five poems

Author’s note: “Money and Light” first appeared in GHLL 12, p 16; “Pythagoras Rests in a Clearing” GHLL 15, p 30; “Spider in Winter” was in volume 24, “Gecko” volume 14, p. 219 and “The Craft of Water and Light” in volume 32.




Money and Light

Clouds speak a language of light,

you told me,

translated easily enough

with a pair of cheap binoculars,

glasses of wine,

and a day off from work

on this windy porch,

hammock suspended,

rocking with the slow of forever

in 2:00’s quiet glow.

Fancy dreams,

I couldn’t help thinking,

for this rundown hilly street

in the north and west of Catskill

where money always drifts south.

But today I did hear the speech of bulbous

wide tailed cumulus to wisps of cirrus.

You translated it with an odd perfection,

cloud-rolling basso profundo lilting

in your gentle high pitched hum.

And I saw the way the afternoon sun

flashed here and there, hieroglyphs of glow

softly staining embankments of puff,

moisture’s muscle, intimate grays and whites,

the flesh and bone of fog and drizzle,

the only letters the sky ever writes.

Money melted to light.



Pythagoras Rests in a Clearing

This luminescence-dappled realm of breeze

displays geometry’s pervasiveness:

a clearing, circular, where he can rest,

and watch the way late sun’s caresses tease

a shadow language from the nearby trees;

fleet hieroglyphs of dusk whose forms impress

the rule of shape and angle on these woods.

The ever shifting shadow-shapes suggest

dark homage to the perfect circle’s rule.

And spirals of a gliding hawk agree

that basic shapes reveal creation’s truths.

Tranquility descends now on these woods,

as raptor vanishes into the west.

Such peacefulness is theorem, needs no proof.




Spider in Winter

Fierce patch of ice

ready to upend the bold, the meek,

the inebriated without distinction,

but no match for summer-in-March

that dazzles this slow afternoon.

We watch the love affair

of hard molecules with melt

and soon a midsized puddle

reflects the sun brightly.

From our porch in Catskill,

we’ve seen many a season

but none that changed more sharply

than this, in just three hours.

Temptation to step

on surviving ice

is too great to resist:

spiderwebbed cracks that ensue,

each fissure veined with glow

are mirrored in a real spider’s crawl

along the porch railing,

as if appeared from nowhere.

Cousin to our plodding thoughts—

fellow descendent of the sun—

and more recently of the trilobite

who first evolved the eyes

that we bask in the pleasure of using

this lightrippled, warm afternoon.




So molecules seem theoretical,

abstract conceits, small art of microscope,

maybe mirages like quarks, isotopes,

rule over thought by the conceptual.

But not so on the gecko’s tiny beat,

on which it climbs up walls so casually;

infinitesimal hairs on its blur-feet

can wrap round molecules relentlessly.

Three feet a second is its rate of climb,

of quickness crossing ceilings belly-up;

its doctorate in physics, straight from time—

vast, immemorial—that’s conjured up

such huge capacity for tread and flight

as to bring molecules almost in sight.



The Craft of Water and Light

It speaks a language for sure, this shallow stream

whose chief occupation appears to be

polishing stones so smoothly

they’re almost jewels.

You listen intently to tinkle and bubble,

a cacophony of dash and splash,

a wavering rhythm of sound and motion,


and couldn’t be more certain

the stream is talking to you.

But oh to know what the words mean!


Perhaps if you were a bird,

or sun ray or overhanging branch,

translation might come more easily.

The pale brown stones the stream polishes

shimmer gemlike when a burst of sun,

parting-clouds emancipated,

catches them full.

Perhaps the stream, an artisan,

is speaking of the gemlike beauty

its own craft of water and light


You listen and listen until this language

tells you to move on.



Lee Slonimsky’s latest US collection of poems is Bright Yellow Buzz from Spuyten Duyvil Press. His sonnets about Pythagoras have been translated from English into Greek, Italian, Polish and French.