Two Poems by Michael Prior


Infinite Monkey Theorem

after Émile Borel

You mistook who I was then for whom
I might have become. What is past
is prologue. Mannequins shift off
summer-wear, leaves kite differential
currents: the city right now. My heels
over sidewalk clip a steady tempo,
an urban perfidy, perhaps, or a typewriter
recomposing time thought lost.
I did the best I could with the words I knew.
Late night conversations made clear
as Latin by time-zone warp, fibre-optic
lag — or that trip to the island, where silence
was parsed by the moon’s bruised maria,
the morning’s pulse of surf. Everything
a variable in an unarticulated set:
the inequalities winging overhead, the shudder
of a text received. Given other years,
I would have predicted what probability
meant to do, finished it myself.


Mock Turtle

‘Why did you call him Tortoise,
if he wasn’t one?’ Alice asked.
— Lewis Carroll

I grew a hide of stone upon
the seafloor. I breathed in
the air that flamed the land.
A late arrival, I slicked my way
up the beachhead’s midnight
plane of mud. Memories yolked
a skull’s thick egg and leaked
from each unstopped ear.
While my master longed
for longer days and shorter
exposures, wherein the shutter
would catch every doll-eyed
child, their smiles painted
just for him. What would
it take to wipe away that grin?
There is no answer. Spare limbs,
masks I donned and lost:
artifacts of water, of grave —
these unwanted imitations
I once thought a second skin.
As the actor who brought
home King Lear would learn,
there are unwanted forms
of flattery. The ocean’s an impostor
that breaks the same on scale
and shell. My time: a sandcastle
under wave. I want to know.
What would you give
to take me home?

Reprinted with permission of the publisher, Frog Hollow Press, from Swan Dive by Michael Prior, and available here.

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Michael Prior

Michael Prior's poems have appeared in Geist, The Fiddlehead, Lemon Hound, The Malahat Review, and The New Quarterly. He was the winner of Vallum's 2013 Poetry Prize, Grain's 2014 Short Grain Contest, and The Walrus's 2014 Poetry Prize. His first chapbook, Swan Dive, was published in late 2014 by Frog Hollow Press. His first full-length collection is forthcoming in 2016 from Véhicule Press.