Incense or Varnish


Philip Kobylarz

Incense or Varnish

It is not something you can sense.
Not like the stillness behind an elevator's
closed doors. Not like the moment in which
you remember a key is lost, or realize that you
have smoked a Camel and are in a crowd.
Or the thought spoken in a yawn, a punctured shroud of air,
a glass eyeball, dates circled on a calendar,
the urn in which a relative is kept
left open-

when the young couple, just married,
left the motel there was a scent of burning cloth
and a flurry of luna moths around the room,
father said at a visitation. It seems the bride and groom
were virgins, and in a fit of terror, in the darkness-
they ruined her wedding dress. Afterwards he searched
for a pack of cigarettes. He only found matches.
When they realized what had happened, they laughed
and later cried. He decided to burn it on a hanger
hung from a defunct telephone wire.
A ghost on fire in the First Act of love.
Their honeymoon in cinders.

Fake bells chime in a clock,
their shapes are heard but not seen.
The shells of locusts left to dance in the wind.
A bottle filled with broken glass, a trace of lipstick
around its rim. A wisp of parsley in the rain.
A crescendo of footsteps through the fog
on the lock and dam. It is either like these or not
when he is dressing the patients, as he says,
precise to the hidden details, he matches their ties
with their socks. He cleans their teeth with Q-tips.

There once was a woman who swallowed a spider.
There was a man who lost his hands carrying
window glass when a sheath of it broke loose
like an old bifocal. He tried to catch it-
a gut reaction. Then there was the coffin
of the eight year old prot�g�
itself shaped like a violin. There is that photo
of a doctor who had spontaneously combust
yet nothing around him was burnt,
his slipper still fitting on his foot

Flies birth out of rotting meat. The elevator stops
at the thirteenth floor. Snakes discard their skins
like silk shirts on a summer day. The crickets
with a lost leg strum the more resonate songs.
They have more to say than newspapers
still rubber-banded. Near the abandoned
railroad car that moves inches on the tracks
towards the gully with every storm,
there is a piano in a church all alone.


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