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Man Under a Pear Tree by Keith Ratzlaff

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"MAN UNDER A PEAR TREE is a litany of fused moments, layered like the transparencies in an encyclopedia to give us--if it's possible--new levels of reality. Keith Ratzlaff shuffles his deck of cards so that images float, fluid and intractable as time itself, and ideas are caught in the process of formation. Ratzlaff gives us context: the portrait widened to landscape in such a way that the individual is not lost, but seen in a new perspective, like the feet of the flying woman whose body must be imagined beyond the frame. Ratzlaff is most assuredly the Klee of words. We are alterable, says this poet, but he is enchanted by the magic of alteration, the illusion that reveals. I hold my breath as Houdini is lowered into the water, slowed breath becoming slower as cause and effect float in an ever-present 'now.' The words that come to mind are brilliant, breathtaking, death-defying, but I'll settle for saying these poems feel as real as talking to yourself"--Judith Kitchen.

 

Woman Flying

There's beer on the table
And the woman with red hair is thinking
What if the door opened
What if the roof came off
What if the whole bar didn't have its arms in the air
watching the playoffs
What if she broke into flames
The whole bar, its arms and fists in the air
as if this were Fidelio and tragic
And wishing it could happen: flames, corolla, ash, 
and none of it her fault

Someone else has been looking over her shoulder
all day, mimicking her 
The way pearls on a string mimic each other
The way a dancer's movements in one stopped moment
finally rush up to be her and now
And she's thinking of apples 
the moment before the moment they hit the ground
Thinking of the old woman in the street 
kneeling in the traffic, praying, her voice raised
Of a female house finch faking a broken wing
Of the woman in traffic with her eyes closed, 
her green tam, the blue of her eyelids
Wishing then that God would simply lift her out
And thinking, this self at any one moment, 
the man who survived being hit by lightning 
seven times, who then committed suicide

And the glaze on the road going home
The picture her daughter drew of a house
some clouds, two ankles, two shoes
disappearing off the top of the page
It's a woman flying above our house, the girl had said
And thinking of the abstraction, the new stage
it signalled in her daughter's development
The five simple lines around the shoes that mean motion
and up and trailing away
And wishing it might be her, the woman flying
blessed for no reason with a great invisible gift

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