Sleet Seasonal Supplement — Summer 2011

M C Hyland

At night in some way illumined

Like Water Poured Into the Altar

Ballet Mécanique (i)
Ballet Mécanique (ii)
Ballet Mécanique (iii)

At night in some way illumined

one star burning even in the smallest room
is light only where we cannot see the shore

the books have lost their texts     the lingerie
grows typographic where thin lines intervene

an inch away from the stem one leaf
shadows onto another & the brightness
of the whole machine shifts forward

into the tiny place where light is
held shallowly & then allowed to fade

as though clouds as though these hands
each gear encouraging the others

advance the repeatability of the kitchen
these legs artificial disjoined     light
coming through the holes

Like Water Poured Into the Altar

75% of the earth becomes a machine a glowing
wheel spinning a piston ticking in

& out of sight like a reversed pair of eyes
lit from within against a backdrop of nothing

placing summer feet to ascend the woman makes a wreath
of carnations & the light eats away at her hands

the traveler wears two faces or is
two badly-joined halves    sunlight on the motion of water

& whiteness where air finds its way underneath
islands like humped whales breaching

interminably from the water & the way sunlight
mounds upon the highest point

the convex ocean so stationary the hand
of the beautiful woman holding flowers repeatedly

have a cigarette & martini on the roof of the city
toast the camera's machine eye & trade eyes with it

waves make a passage a flat place in which to step
piston piston piston piston

a turning of a gear half-illuminated the sand
turning to gold or some pure beaten light

the eye slowly ascends as light expands
on the ground     the observation platform

shaking in uncertainly purposed joy

Ballet Mécanique (i)

I had lost interest in the body,
the cold giver of light.
We traded clothes. I asked the house, Who
do you think you are?
but had to answer
for it. We wanted what we had,
but different. We wanted
our lives to happen without us.

The missionaries unlocked the word-hoard,
but wouldn't share with us what they found there.
They gave us juice instead, in paper cups.
There may have been love,
but it masqueraded as rain
eating slowly through the abandoned schoolbus.
Then winter came on, scratchy
with stars, and we walked through the night

to stay warm. Our lungs, damp machines.
Reeling on the public lawn,
I said to the field, This body
is an emptiness bruised by sound.
The house
shuttered. The missionaries dug
in the staked-out floodplains, archaeologies
of half-truths and caution tape. Seasons
fell away, creaking on the doorjambs.

Our bodies thickened, pulled down
towards the earth. It wasn't, exactly, death
that we feared, though our bodies
held that also. Quiet among the haut-parleurs,
I turned the crank, kept my hand steady
as a viper.

Ballet Mécanique (ii)

And then there was the radio, our
constant companion. Winter came on,
scratchy with stars, and we cut a memorial garden
from a piece of silver paper.
Egyptian birds, a lacelike tangle of root.

While the haut-parleurs
scoffed in the parlor, we changed our shoes
to climb the chainlink fence.
So many berries close to the ground!
I was looking for the lost swimming pool
when the steam began to rise.

Waiting all night for the body to rise again,
I hid my answers in upturned paper cups.
The rain fell and we measured its inches.
Our lungs, pink machines operated
in the inner darkness.

We wanted what we had, but realer.
I asked the house, Who do you think
you are?
but could find no sufficient
answer. A thickening of air.
To touch the body of the air, you must keep
still as sleep in the bus depot.
You must allow the air to come toward you
in gentleness, a shy but tame thing.

Light beams on the street from erstwhile
trees, grown straight and tarry in a distant wood.
The missionaries are digging
in the staked-out floodplains.
The life outside the body is the only life.

Ballet Mécanique (iii)

Why not this night? Continuous in that
in-between falls away upon arrival.
Scrambling down a hillside, I turned sideways
toward the lost swimming pool, the public lawn.
I turned the crank, kept my hand steady.

There may have been love, but it masqueraded
as a pear tree vaguely visible
on the western horizon.
The haut-parleurs laughed their crushed bone laughs.
I blew the punchline in the joke about
the lost elephant and the space/time continuum.

The missionaries lost interest
in our bodies, their slowly weathered delights.
Locked in the parlor, we traded clothes,
unlocked the word-hoard. We wanted
to be proud of each other, but the rain
got in the way. It soaked through the wool
while we carved a memorial garden
of deer bone, a hundred tiny willows.

The problem with your life is that you don't believe
it's yours.
So said the house, the cool pocket
of air. Our bodies thickening, pulled down
towards the earth. We went for walks
down Seventh Avenue, and the sidewalk
threw back heat.

I asked the machines, Who do you think you are,
watching from above without reference
to the human. Bound together by a common
discontent: these foolish skins, so prone
to piercing. It wasn't, exactly, death
that we feared, though the radio had other ideas,
always asking us to dance.

I said to the radio, This body is a longing bounded by time.
A road kept tunneling through August,
blind between the high corn.
We kept walking down it, calling our names
up to the oranged night sky.

“At night in some way illumined" and “Like Water Poured in the Altar" were previously published in Cannibal 5, 2010. The “Ballet Mécanique" suite is from Neveragainland (Lowbrow Press, 2010). First published in Slant (

MC Hyland's first full-length book of poems, Neveragainland, is recently out from Lowbrow Press. Her chapbooks include Every Night in Magic City (H_NGM_N, 2010), Residential, As In (Blue Hour Press, 2009), and (with Kate Lorenz and Friedrich Kerksieck) the hesitancies (Small Fires Press, 2006). She lives in Minneapolis, where she runs DoubleCross Press and the Pocket Lab Reading Series, and works as an administrator and occasional letterpress instructor at the Minnesota Center for Book Arts.