Author: Virginia Konchan

Virginia Konchan’s poems have appeared in Best New Poets, The New Yorker, The Believer, Sixth Finch, and The New Republic, and her criticism in Boston Review, Quarterly Conversation, and elsewhere. The co-founder of Matter, a journal of poetry and political commentary, she lives in Chicago.

Napoleon Contemplates His Mortality from the Perspective of a Fly & Dolores Haze Enters the 10th Grade & Dolores Haze as Schéhérazade

Napoleon Contemplates His Mortality from the Perspective of a Fly

All alone now, the spirit ascends,
not in grandeur, not surrounded
by fishermen or their wharfs,
not accompanied by Josephine.

The mission twice aborted,
no, began, the chalk dust
of centuries, of pedagogical unease,
the comforts of home abandoned,

rich tapestries of want, he—
the fatal lodestar—sinks
his rapier into the ground,
reclines on a four-poster bed

of crinoline and trash, remembers
the fidelity of man, his honorific
native tongue, humbly requests
a glass of water. It is the last glass

of water in the world. The fly
merely circulates. I could die here,
not unhappily, but won’t;—
the world will continue,

panoptic, bread will be baked,
the children will sleep fast.
It is the first day of the last day.
The low tide moans its applause

Dolores Haze Enters the 10th Grade

I open my clenched fists,
breathe in crenelated air:
my ears keening for the whistle
of the kettle, train, or inner ear.
The man I fled and toward whom
I’m walking, with purposeful gait,
are not the same man. To one
I was datum, flesh, a beast
to harness for a life
on a racetrack, circling
madly at impossible speeds.
To the other I am human,
quiet in my orbit, and clean.
I shut the door to the boudoir
with reluctance, open geometry:
chicken scratch whose language
I will, to be worthy of love, endeavor
to understand, master, or believe.

Dolores Haze as Schéhérazade

The moment I stop
laying golden eggs
(chain mail of history)
at your feet, meat
of legal tender,
sonic wallpaper
of place and thing
(floating signifiers
of your trash-strewn,
transitive soul), you die.
1001 nights: how long
I didn’t exist save as cipher,
matrix of guillotined tongue.
You: propped on sultan pillows.
Me: spiritus-turned-matter,
three-dimensional codex
a threnody for the real.