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The prologue to this piece can be found here.

Round One

From firm amen to firmament, so be it, she
began the discourse known as partimen,
but do not think I shall be ladylike and see
with batty and forgiving eyes the truths you bend
to fabricate and lubricate dumbstruck women.
I was one, I know. The ground is pocked with hidey
holes of those who wish that life could be more tidy,
while secretly they hope you will happen again.

Touché! I thought you’d give me too much credit. Not
enough is better—keeps me hungry, slightly mad
and vengeful. Hidey holes are fine, but not a lot
of fun once scars have healed. For you to think me bad
is easier than to maintain a Galahad.
I like my women small, pretending helplessness,
but only so that I can put off happiness
and float, a former prince, upon this lilypad.

You make me want to croak, said she. What happened to
the fearless knave, enchanting minds and broken hearts?
If not for you, I never would have wandered through
these catacombs to echoes of assembled starts
that went nowhere but could. I would have missed the arts
of time, of rhyme and pulse, the sciences of grace.
Tributes to you are heaped and crammed in every space,
while thieves are making off with who you were in carts.

Round Two

The poet from a slowly moving eddy watched
the poetess and waited for the impulse that
would stir to words that either remedied or botched.
I know I have done both to you, knocked hard and flat
the tenderness you offered. I’m a heartless brat,
but for all that, we are together still. What yearned
in you for me is gone; I see what I have burned.
Why is it hot in here? Who turned the thermostat?

The poetess who always had too much to say
felt planks of certainty break loose and start to drift.
Get back here, you! A partimen, once started, may
not lie unfinished. Someone had to drag and lift
what constancy remained; she could not lose this gift
or him! To no one in particular, she said,
I don’t recall what ejected you from my bed.
My rhythm’s off. I can’t iamb. What is this shift?

The poet wept, but not so that his former love
could see or know what kept them, while embodied, bound.
Fleshless, boneless, he had nothing now left to prove.
I’m here, he said, for what it’s worth. The hallowed ground
you sought I could not be, and what I thought I found
in you seemed easily replaceable. The chase
was all I knew. Outrunning you became the race.
They may find traces of us in some burial mound.

The Arbiter

She walks along the shore, a pocketful of spheres
and dreams that spin above her head in tubular
and spiral shapes. When beauty’s crushed, nothing adheres,
some plaintive voice is telling her in angular
profusions. What we two achieved was jugular
and cruel. Not so, she says. Your ballast holds me here
in this new place where sound precurses poetry
of dialogue from two to three, spectacular!


This partimen in the 8-line, 12-syllable style of “copla mayor” is dedicated to L.F., glosera.

© Elaine Stirling, 2014