Napoleon Contemplates His Destiny in Real Time

By Virginia Konchan

I want to be painted calm, on a fiery horse.

—Napoleon

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For my portrait, David powders my face

like a geisha, gives me a decorative sword.

My childhood in Corsica did not prepare

me for the fluted collar of fame.

This ridiculous bicorne hat,

hand-in- waistcoat gesture—

more appropriate to a flâneur

than to me! Me—a black star.

Me the comb that drags through

the insouciant self, drunk on dynasty.

The stage is strewn with my body:

my infamous stature, mercurial eye.

Immortality is a matter of degree.

Do not pity my captivity. When I meet

my face in the mirror, I read it from

the perspective of being frozen, or freed.

Empire

By Virginia Konchan

Color shocks,

like the invention of penicillin.

Who am I to be bled in this way?

We make inroads in discourse,

interventions, and the like,

while in neighboring countries,

body parts are auctioned

and punishment meted out

according to fallible law.

So much depends upon

the right words in the right order,

not just spoken in mutiny,

but also propinquity.

This vodka, for example,

is made of bison grass

and can be applied to wounds.

Draw closer.  I have distilled

the literal.  You can touch it—

the idea within the thing, metaphor.

Risk Management

By Virginia Konchan

Worm boring into an apple or rose:

life is trash nowadays, a word I forbid

my students from using, for its slangy

indeterminancy. When you think of me,

fixed star in a deathly orbit, think of me

as all you did not aspire to be.

Yours is the fortune of anywhere:

of the elision of meaning, and of

the zero on the x axis speedily

approaching the y. Zero zero.

1 to infinity. I never thought

I’d lose you until I lost you.

In all probability is a phrase

I must tattoo on my brain.

Sick worm, needy rose.

Solve for the value of x,

when all other quanta

are unknown. If variable.

If supernumerary. Life,

nowadays, is beautiful.

I walk gingerly into traffic.

I own a body not my own.

Virginia Konchan is the author of a book of poetry, The End of Spectacle (Carnegie Mellon, 2018), a collection of short stories, Anatomical Gift (Noctuary Press, 2017), and two chapbooks, including That Tree is Mine (dancing girl press, 2017).  Her poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The New Republic, Boston Review, and elsewhere.  Co-founder of Matter, a journal of poetry and political commentary, and Associate Editor for Tupelo Quarterly, she teaches at Marist College.