Sarah Arvio

IX Static Interference

This one, for instance, just said (I heard him
through a screen of static or scraping wind-
was it the scratch of the pen on the page?),

"Shun that small soul. Shun that small—natured soul.
Avoid mediocrity at all cost."
This was, yes, "improper interference."

"It's really only the new departures
who want, having just left, to intervene,
driven by the onset of new vision."

And "oh alas, in the time of passage
can they be dissuaded? For they haven't
yet grasped the futility of trying

to spare you your plight, your purpose, your oh
so necessary struggles and strivings.
For without them what would life be? As good . . .

as good as . . ." (here one fumbled and broke off,
mawkishly humming) ". . . oh useless to know . . .
oh love your sweet tears." And into the room

flew the sense of a dark song and a throng
of flutters or rustles-were they whispers
or were they soft wings, oh paler than air,

or merely the sense of the sound of them,
and the sound was as waves lapping, laughing,
the sound was as forests ruffled by wind.

And here now again, urgently pressing:
"Waste your talents on that constricting soul
for the love of a spot of affection?

Do you hope to exalt him? Watch how he
tries to count and control you, watch how he
wants to enclose you." And then this other:

"In time (or out of it), we learn to quell
our frustration, to turn our thoughts elsewhere
(I nearly said 'our minds'-how utterly

we are moved to speak your language to you)
toward the outer worlds. Oh yes, so high—flown
these words I know. But a fact is a fact."

X Malice

There are ones out there are false as any
(a 42nd Street of the Heavens),
gypsies and fantasists, conmen and creeps:
if you're unbefriended they can steal in

at any hour under any pretext,
wanting you to believe in their goodwill
while secretly witching for your downfall.
They're envious, being those least gifted

or those who mismanaged their gifts in life,
so they can't come around honoring or
answering to honor they don't merit.
But do they ask themselves why not, and work

upwards from there? No. After all that time
cavorting idle across the landscape,
pink, pellucid and cloud—streaked (that alone
should be enough to arouse them to praise),

and grousing about what they didn't do,
they want to see you injured or chagrined,
so they can chortle and vent their failure.
And ever—so—alluring deceiver

is the one who tells you your every dream
as though it were the truth of the future;
meanwhile there you stand in a wash of sweat,
your hopes lifted high only to be dashed,

and hear him later laughing fit to burst
and posturing as thunder or traffic.
They are hard to tell by this medium
from the grand and good ones (but how like life!)

because of course they really can't be seen
and that makes telling a difficult task,
so Helen—Keller—like in its demand
for varieties of subtle nuance.

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    Excerpted from Visits from the Seventh by Sarah Arvio. Copyright © 2003 by Sarah Arvio. Excerpted by permission of Knopf, a division of Random House. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.