"Split the Lark-and you'll find the Music-"

-Emily Dickinson


To order Donald's book:


or Leap Second at the Turn of the Millenium from the Center for Book Arts



Donald Platt


"Small Parable" previously appeared in Poetry Northwest and "As Is" previously appeared in Ploughshares

Donald Platt

Small Parable

My anger is a wasp,
the mud dauber
who has built her house
above the back door so my daughter
is afraid to go out.

Together we watch her
patch walls from red clay,
carry crumbs of dirt,
and mix it with her own spit.
What patience to construct
this tedious house that dries
in the blank stare of the sun
to stucco hard as stone,
in which she has tunneled out
cells the size of herself
and filled them with spiders
paralyzed by her kiss
and then numbed, crushing
their necks with pincer
jaws, so she may lay
her eggs there, seal them in
with more dirt, and let
them hatch into larvae
who will devour the still living
spiders, grow wings
and fly out of their mud

88888888888My daughter
shudders at the shadow
of the thread-waisted wasp
humming near our door
and won't go out until
I've knocked the mud house down
and gotten stung. My arm
swells with invisible venom
my body can't digest,
a dull pulse that will
not let me sleep.

88888888888The next day
I tell my daughter the mud dauber
has left the stinger beneath
my red infected skin;
she flinches and says she dreamed
the wasp has laid
her eggs within my arm,
that I must be their host
and they will hatch and eat
my dead flesh, and when they are
full-grown, they will bore
through my skin and swarm out
from my arm and land upon her
with a hundred stings.

I hold her and say I'll never
raise my arm in anger
against her again.

As Is

No one is awake yet, neither the cardinals who live
888888888 in the gnarled, rotted-out
apple tree, nor Lucy my youngest daughter whose shrieks are

888888888 our alarm and birdsong.
This is the best house, neither night nor morning, a place
888888888 in which shadows

become more real than the things that cast them.
888888888"Premature atrial contractions,"
said the ER doctor, barely glancing at my "strip," my heart's

888888888 poor penmanship,
which he showed me with mild reproof. My hand coaxing
888888888 invisible words

from this white paper is turning to shadow more quickly
888888888 than I can write
its transformation down. My pulse flutters.

888888888 Yesterday the blue jay
in our cat's mouth, and I stop mid-sentence to remember
888888888 the tremor of the blue, black-barred

wings, its punk-rocker head held fast between
888888888 incisors, and the cat
with her gorgeous tortoise-shell markings, three black whiskers

888888888 among the white
and her hypnotic neon-green eyes, who brought the bird
88888888 to our backdoor to show us.

Yesterday death stalked and caught, then opened her mouth
888888888to mew, and the bird
flew in a blue flash into the sixty-foot pine and shrieked

888888888 back at its mortalilty,
now circling the tall tree. The other birds started scolding too.
888888888 "No one's heartbeat is ever

perfectly regular. Dial 911 if you start to fibrillate
888888888or your heart
stops." Thanks, Doc. Thank you, daylight, that seeps

888888888 through the slats of the blinds
I raise to see the world come back—leaves of the magnolia that dawn
888888888 varnishes, the twisted

basketball hoop and backboard on a rusted steel pole blown over
888888888by Hurricane Opal,
our half-blighted pear tree, black leaves

888888888 among the first greeny-white
blossoms the wind blows to the ground in flurries of snow
888888888 that will take all

this still cold March day to melt, and the litter of light
888888888 caught in the broken glass
along the curb. Hard frost has silvered

888888888 the grass so each blade
is an illuminated letter in the manuscript I'll read forever
888888888 and never understand.

I count my resting pulse, black beads of the blood's
888888888rosary that the body
tells over and over. How does one live

888888888 on the fault line, the crack
in the heart's bedrock? God, you are seismic. Your will
888888888 is the Richter scale.

Though you tear me down and shatter whatever
888888888roof I raise,
I do not want another life. Give me

888888888 this one morning, a single
entry in the year's dream diary, and let it be "as is"—
888888888 meaning "no guarantee

against the transmission falling out" in the OK Used Car Lot
888888888salesman's lingo.
As is, the bird I can't identify, who quavers

888888888 vee-ur, vee-ur
as if to say it's all right that things repeat themselves,
888888888 that the sun rises again

not like a white disc to be taken daily,
888888888a cure-all that will dissolve
pain or grief, but simply as itself,

888888888 as the one eye
of a peacock feather. No trompe l'oeil of metaphor will do
888888888 for what the sun does,

filling in the world and its colors, bringing it back to us
888888888 common and miraculous.
Here comes the orange garbage truck with its long

888888888 automated arm
and claw to grab our standard-size, dull green containers
888888888 and empty them into

the compactor. One two-play plastic sack splits open,
888888888a piñata that spills
a cascade of newspapers, chicken bones, disposable diapers,

888888888 mussel sheels, and the confetti
of vegetable peelings into the gutter. Let the garbage stink a thousand flagrantly
888888888 fragrant ways. I want the day

as is and not as if. Flocks of grackles are migrating, purple-black whirlwind
888888888of thrumming wings that settle
for a moment in the pink oak so that the bare tree sings,

888888888 gossips, and complains, a hundred
rusty hinges, and then stands speechles after its black foliage rises
888888888 and flies north.

My older daughter wakes, runs into the living room
888888888and calls me "dummo"
for scribbling shadows in my notebook on such a sun-winged

888888888 morning. To prove me wrong
she goes outside barefoot in her nightgown, as is, and writes
888888888 with one small finger

her own name Eleanor, Eleanor ("vee-ur, vee-ur")
888888888over and over, up and down
the street, on car windshields turned golden-green with pine pollen.