This exercise I’m calling linear derangement, in which I reverse line order rather than word order. The source is “A Procession at Candlemas,” by Amy Clampitt. (You can view the source poem at https://www.sas.upenn.edu/~cavitch/pdf-library/Clampitt_ProcessionAtCandlemas.pdf.)
In the rest-in-peace of the placental coracle,
not merely of the ego, you rediscover, almost,
sometimes wrapped like a papoose into a grief
beyond the torn integument of childbirth,
a stillness at the heart of so much whirling:
amok among the magnolias’ pregnant wands,
remorseless corpuscles, street gangs
in falling snow, a whirl of tenderness
for one straggling up Pennsylvania Avenue.
Intoning, a drum becomes the metronome:
the monk in sheepskin over tucked-up saffron
can assign a trade-in value to that sorrow
like caribou, perhaps camped here. Whose
names they went by, stumbling past
in losing everything they had, is lost even
in transhumance, once a people
of Indian Meadows. The westward-trekking
nowhere oasis wears the place name
absently, without inhabitants, this
the pristine seductiveness of money
niched into the washroom wall case.
Lip rouge, mirrors, and emollients embody
perfect, like miracles. Comb, nail clippers
in parcel gilt, plop from their housing
gumball globes, life savers cincture
cream-capped in the cafeteria showcase.
What’s fabricated? The jellies glitter
beside them, drinking what is real except
fuel pumps, the bison hulk slantwise
of freezing dark, through a Stonehenge
or clamber down, numb-footed, half in a drowse
about the self’s imponderable substance.
The sleepers groan, stir, wrap themselves
something precious, ripped: Where are we
within layers, at the core a dream of
lapped, wheelborne integument, each layer
necessary and intractable as dreaming,
fragile as ego, frightening as parturition?