The bough not smooth, the leaves not green, she said she was trapped in
an old woman’s body. By mid-autumn, the soft bells of her voice ceased
and snow began to fall and flock the trees. Her eyes were two caches of
absence, yet still blue beneath her earth-brown hair. Before dawn in the
riverside house, she drank coffee and sat on floors in rooms with little
furniture. In the afternoons, two stained-glass horses shone brightly in
the kitchen window. The house sat on stilts with no back steps and the
river was inescapable when it rose and stretched its legs.
It came to light the previous tenant had broken the tiny white bones of
his infant daughter, was arrested, and evicted. She couldn’t nest and she
couldn’t sleep. She took medication the size of bird seed and ate less and
less. She cried and hit herself in the face. She smoked from open windows.
Then one day, while she listened to the river sing its seething, she
discovered the thrall of the Sirens’ song. How they, like her, searched in
vain for the child lost to darkness, a sweet girl, not yet born but already
loved. With wispy curls of hair and eyes unbothered by the need to remember,
the baby waited for its mother.
In late November, with the garden sparkling of ice, she entered the river,
her ears and mouth unstopped. Down there at the bottom, the rock
meadow bloomed with algae and whales floated overhead like clouds. She
soon found the white cradle with its intricately carved posts and spindles.
She lowered herself down slowly and let the baby drink the life from her
heart. She kissed each eye shut and smiled. Dragonflies, whose heads are
all eyes, circled the silver surface, while the moon’s fevered face glowed red
beneath the black cerecloth of night and slept.
Effet de Neige
There I was with her ensconced beside me
in the hull of the Colt driving the country roads of her youth
made smaller with banks of snow,
when she started telling of all the people she once knew
who’d died on these very same roads
and what songs were played at their funerals—
Garth Brooks’, “Desperado,” for example,
or the Beatles: in my life I loved you more.
Because of the way the names kept stacking up
and her casual delivery of each name, first and last,
and the snow-swept fields full of silence
and the heater blowing loudly
tickling my nose and making me drowsy,
a sordid blankness descended upon me
that would not let me feel or think or speak.
I have searched for the words for twenty odd years now.
In retrospect, hiding in that white-out of thought
was a feeling of comfort at dying this way—
in a car with a friend becoming weightless and volitionless
as tires slide and tired eyes close and snow falls on bone-thin trees
leaving sleaves of clear-blue fractals repeating and repeating
until white veinless arms of light appear
to clear away the scene of years.
In Monet’s Haystacks—Snow effect—Sun,
the shadows are cast towards the viewer
creating the sensation that one is looking towards the sun
exhaling out of frame, defining light written slant
through the snowy airscape of purple and white brush strokes.
The two haystacks in the painting glow as if treated
with a spark-glaze of small-cut diamonds. Each one stands out,
exists. Each one is a gathering-gatheredness frozen
and composed in the mirror of two weakening eyes
looking outward at the ambit of their seeing.
I am working very hard, struggling, Monet wrote,
but at this season the sun sets so fast I cannot follow it.
Shadow hour has arrived. Ultraviolet light. Still life.
I think of your last letter and a thousand tortures. I think of you with child, your voice echoing through a stairwell as you sang, each word loved by the care of your tongue, each breath wild and strong like the horses that live in the shade of the firs of your sinking island, and your voice a sanctuary from drowning. I think of your seven seeds and your seven axes and how you were Noah trading favors for fuel and shofar, building your ark to cross an ocean of grief and betrayal—asking me to share in the waiting. I think of your grandmother’s gloves you could not bear to part with, smooth over your small hands. I think of the moment when our talk turned to touch, gentle running of my finger on your finger—endless night and a call to prayer to remind us of morning. I think of your hijab and the suitcase of clothes you were saving for Bedouins. I think of Azraq on fire from a single cigarette. I think of destruction and the end of the world, of men’s violence and the scar on your throat, of changing tables three times to avoid their glaring eyes. I think of drinking mint tea when night fell softly as lace from a sable shroud. I think of the coming judgment, the end of exile, and every subterfuge of imagination. And even now I think of your body next to my body, how we were so beautiful and comfortable and warm in each other’s arms. I think of how such things are rare and this is not the way the world is
but it was with us.
Der Traum ist das Ding
Man and absence – the twin spirit he unites with when he dreams, longs
In the dream I finally solve the riddle!
The twinning of guilt and grief stop spinning,
yet it is no new miracle equivalent of wholeness.
In the dream I’m the one who’s dead—
what a revelation! I am the thing
in the dream keeping her sleepless.
In the dream she skips stones in the river
where her body was found. I study each rocks’
adumbrations as they pass above me.
Even the simplest thing hosts a modus ponens.
All living things split. If a living thing splits,
then it has the sudden urge to scream.
A poem is the artful manifestation
of a sudden urge to scream.
In the wake of dreams, the loved one lies alone
beneath the stone, alone after death, once and for all.
In the wake of dreams, I split splinterless
from chopping block. I scream,
are you there? I sing,
I am here!