Calder at the Top of the Stairs by John Timpane

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Calder at the Top of the Stairs by John Timpane


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Calder at the Top of the Stairs by John Timpane

calder at the top of the stairs

Calder at the Top of the Stairs  

If this is modernism

         Why are you smiling?

                   Is it the light hanging

In nothing, ruby

           Triangle turning, leaf

                       Or teardrop train or

Dreamshape you

             Have never seen

                         Before turning

Answerably round the

            Ruby triangle? Is

                        It the invisible

Unavoidable, as in they 

             Will turn, at a speed 

                         Consulting nothing but the 

Declarations of independence 

               Of air and gravity? Is

                          It their delicate

Armatures, wires of

               Relation, family

                            Of place and force,

Cantilevers hiding

              Tensions, weights,

                          Poise and counterpoise,


            And designs

                        Inviting the sacrilege

Of touch to test how

              What hangs is hanging,

                          Feel, as Eden’s

Finger felt for

           Heaven’s, patterns-made-solid

                       Hauling against and with

(Which gets you kicked

             Out of the museum)?

                        Still smiling. Do you

            Remember that

You, too, hang

             Athwart and among

               Circlers, wanderers, brilliants,

             All the ellipses and rings –

Planets, blood

             Cells jostling down

                          Vascular sluiceways, wacky-

              Eyed fish, sycamore

Rookbursts, shockwaves

             Flowering, comic

                        Domino of cause into

              Effect, conga

Lines, timeframes,

            Interorbits of planned

And unplanned – and

            You, too, are

                       At play? Do

                                     You smile because

A man started this but

           His art lay in

                        Turning it loose, letting

                                     Go self into everything,

                                                   A universe of sightless

                                        Angels of influence at

                               Work, bulky, spinning

                  Pear of a planet, cross-

Pulling vector

             Fields, writhing

                         Magma, currents that

Never stop, never? As if

Watch what happens now 

           Were his only theme? Turn:

                       This blue orb gestures to

                                That black rhomboid. Turn

                                             Again: brand-new

Fingerposts in all

             Dimensions? Do you

                          Smile to recognize

                                      The marvel in this

                                                  Nameless moving? Isn’t

That predicament

Great? To live where

             Known and

Unknowable, these

            Shrapnels of

                        Joy, reshape the shape

We’re In? Drive

             To the child at the

                        Center? You’re still

Smiling. Do you assent? Did

You ever think you would?




John Timpane is former Commentary Page Editor (1997-2008) and Books Editor (2014-2020) for The Philadelphia Inquirer and His work has appeared in Sequoia, The Fox Chase Review, Apiary, Cleaver, Painted Bride QuarterlyThe Rathalla ReviewPer ContraSchuylkill Valley JournalVocabula ReviewWild River Review, and elsewhere. Among his books is a chapbook, Burning Bush (Judith Fitzgerald/Cranberry Tree, 2010). He is the spouse of Maria-Christina Keller. They live in New Jersey.