On the Bangkok sidewalk, it pecks
a pink gum-smear.
If it has a soul, it's a crapshoot
its karmic trip is going
up or down. If souls go down,
they may get very small or
have no size at all,
unthinkable as the primordial
zero universe which we
believe, but can't conceive.
In theophysics séance parlors,
one may posit various houses
for the soul, Buddhist, Christian,
otherwise, then ask how
Soul traffics with the Mind
(which I've always pictured as
a skull-sized synthesizer hitched
to Yeats' dying animal).
our pigeon's soul is a
Heifitz of whatever
instrument its journey
takes it through. It may be limited
and singular, lingering beneath
the mauve and lice-infested wings
to animate the worm-brained
bird, or vast and multiple, navigating
flocks in flight. Suppose
this soul is indivisible,
smaller than the smallest thing
and made of nothing else. Finally
it slips like a dewdrop into the shining
Each of us—worm, bird or me
just a blink of the brightest light.
There must be a reason for sleek women
to fade, women in black who turn my head
at the click of their heels in corridors.
One would greet me at gatherings for the dead.
At funerals of my friends, she was always
alone, waiting for me—in her white gloves—
ready with any solace she could give
as I entered those sad, magenta-curtained rooms.
Sometimes, I tried to catch a glimpse of
adjusting her skirt as she sat in an office chair,
her face, that turned so many faces in dark halls,
gave a soft light, faint smile, streak of a tear.
She was a pin-up made flesh. I knew
only her name and that her children were gone.
She filled my senses despite her innocence
and I was hesitant to introduce her to my own.
In her simple black shift she drove me beyond
lust to terror—yet she reached out to me
at those audiences of the dead with strange mercy,
as if I suffered more loss than I could see.
She retired, then quit her body's discipline,
revealing the tutor she had always been.
Unmasked from her distracting succulence, she taught
how the collapse of flesh turns lust to shame.
© 2004 David T. Manning
Poet David T. Manning lives in Cary, N.C. He has won a number
of awards from the North Carolina Poetry Society, including
its Poet Laureate Award in 1996 and again in 1998. He is the
current host of The Friday Noon Poets of Chapel Hill, N.C..
A Pushcart nominee, his poems have appeared in Asheville
Poetry Review, Free Lunch, Southern Poetry
Review, The Christian Century, Main Street
Rag, Pembroke Magazine, Rattle, New
Orleans Review and other journals. His previous chapbooks
include Negotiating Physics and Other Poems (1999),
Poets Anonymous (2001), and Out After Dark (2003).
"When a poet is described to me as being
sage, I am on my guard. The term suggests pompousness,
stuffiness, complacency. But of these faults there is nary
a hint in David Manning's beautiful collection, The Ice-Carver.
Here is freshness, wholeness, newness, and an inexhaustibly
attractive way of looking all about the world and finding
it both familiar and strange. We might say to any of these
poems what the poet says to us: 'Think / of yourself as news
/ from a far country.' And the most apt description of this
poet? There's no help for it: David Manning is sage."
"In this deeply spiritual collection,
David Manning explores that mysterious interval between the
inquiring mind and the believing heart. Laced with subtly
humorous self-knowledge, these poems soar like a church organ
and ring with the distances of outer space. The Ice-Carver
is rich with the wisdom of considered faith."
—Joanna Catherine Scott