Lynne Knight

The Book of Common BetrayalsThe Book of Common Betrayals

Bear Star Press (2002)
Winner of the 2002 Dorothy Brunsman Poetry Prize

“In poems fueled by a combination of passion and panic, Knight disarms us only to expand our vision. She turns the inner world outward and exposes what we’ve kept secret—sometimes even from ourselves.” —Andrea Hollander


For a Friend Whose Love Has Left

For a week now, the deer has been roaming
the neighbor's sloped and wooded yard,
dipping his antlers to leaf and blade.
The neighbor talks to him, and though parts
of the shrubs are vanishing, and the roses
will be gone if this keeps on,
the neighbor’s voice is kind,
low, almost wooing.
Yesterday afternoon, the deer lay
in the grassy patch below the scrub oaks,
and the neighbor, talking low, moved
almost near enough to touch him.
This morning more deer came,
a doe and two fawns.
The neighbor, out for the morning paper,
greeted them all with such warmth
I half expected the deer to wave
their thin legs, or smile.
But they only moved their heads
with a slight sway of the proprietary,
waiting until he’d gone
to dip their heads and eat again.
They’ve come because the hills are dry.
They bring him calm, the neighbor says.
Here and there they’ve eaten branches bare,
but still, he hopes they’ll stay until the rains.
Then another year will end.
Across the bay, you’ll watch the hills give way
to green the deer will feed on
before drought drives them down again.
Bitterness, but of necessity.

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Lost Sestina

  Leonardo’s portrait of Ginevra de’ Benci was painted
  c. 1478-80. Only one line of poetry written by Ginevra
  has survived, the opening of a sestina, which reads:
  “I ask your forgiveness and I am a mountain tiger.” 
    —Mary D. Garrard

I ask your forgiveness and I am a mountain tiger,
waiting. Deny me, and my fur bleeds white
while I roam stone peaks that seem from here
(you lift your head to gaze) not of this world—
ideas some hand contrived from tempera or oils.
Deny me, and my white paws turn all nail.
But you would not have me suffer, not drive the nail
of your withholding through my heart. My tiger,
you’ve called me, rubbing your face against the oils
you’ve rubbed into my breasts and thighs, so white
they seem like snow, if snow could burn. The world
was no more than our chamber. Yes, here
but then our tongues took over, we could not hear
above the blood roar I could feel down to the nail
as I held myself above you, the known world
blurring as trees and shadows must when tigers
rush all tooth and sinew for the kill. O white
annihilation, and afterward the aromatic oils
glistening on us both, heat and sweat and oils
mixed. Sweet lord, is memory to be my enemy? Here
is my heart
, you told me, and held out your hand: white
but for the short dark hairs and yellowing nails.
I asked your forgiveness. Then I waited: as a tiger
stands in the still of the forest I stood in the world
of our chamber thinking how little anyone’s world
amounted to—small heap of bones. Leonardo’s oils
would outlast us. How you raged I was his prey, tiger
that would fall into his arms if he desired! Here,
where I have played the soft wood to your nail,
indulged your wildest fancy, lain still and white
while you tongued me from my ankles to my eyes, white
with my ecstasy—raged that I’d betrayed you and your world.
Then that baleful glare—each eye sharpened like a nail
by your suspicions. . . . But my fur sinks thick, the oils
in my body warm me. I’ll outwait, outwit you, here
or anywhere—make you rue the day you whispered Tiger,
wanting me wilder. No, these oils will crack before your tiger
comes to you white and panting as she once did. I’ll wait here,
tending my nails while you hunt in other women, cold as oils.


Lynne Knight | The Language of Forgetting   Lynne Knight | The Persistence of Longing   Lynne Knight | Again   Lynne Knight | Night in the Shape of a Mirror   Lynne Knight | The Book of Common Betrayals   Lynne Knight | Dissolving Borders   Lynne Knight | Snow Effects/Effets de Neige   Lynne Knight | Defying the Flat Surface   Lynne Knight | Deer in Berkeley   I Know (Je sais) | Translated by Lynne Knight with the author Ito Naga