Stone Telling

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Fatigue of the Marionettes  *

by Karen Neuberg

We reached up
fully expecting strings
after all, we had been fooled before
but this time we were really free,
as if the strings had turned into green snakes
who in old age devoured themselves.

Unspoken ideas,
which we had been dreaming of like promised toys,
filled our mouths

filled them faster
than storm-driven sea
fingers its way inland.

And finally, we began to speak
and heard one another utter
ideas wed never imagined
in throaty timbres that parsed thoughts like a curtain of forest
with intonations damp as a grove of mushrooms.

Until we held our ears against the din.

We tried to recall
what we once believed, recall the dream:

Even the most simple, self-ordained expression
would be a prayer.

We had been so sure it was the parables we played that held us bound.


              Now that we speak and move
on our own, something has been forgotten;
and in our Great Council we debate
what it might be. We speak and speak
until our breath is wilted with heat.
We greet the turning of leaves and their return,
but are still no closer. On corners, some of us
simply hold out our hands;
but rain is the only miracle that touches.
Others make the pilgrimage
to cities where the strings are believed buried
in pits as large as Olympian pools.
They say they search for souvenirs,
that they will be sure to recognize what held us
straight and weightless
against this incessant pull,

this gravity.

* Title of a watercolor by Man Ray, 1919

Karen Neubergs poetry and prose have appeared or are forthcoming in Columbia Poetry Review, Lynx Eye, Mannequin Envy, PoetryBay, Switched-on-Gutenberg, and elsewhere. Shes a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee, holds an MFA from the New School and is associate editor of Inertia Magazine. Her chapbook, Detailed Still, is available from Poets Wear Prada Press. She lives with her husband in Brooklyn, NY and West Hurley, NY. Links to more of her work can be found on her blog at