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Showing posts from May, 2017

Psalm of Waking

I. Princess In The Tower

You stand in the wings again, squinting.
It is not stage-light brilliance that blinds you
but the flash of her teeth,
and her quick glance your way as she flickers
across a wooden floor.
Here, in the wings, you could
open your mouth, you could open your arms,
you could open everything that is locked
behind your ribs and fidgeting
inside your stomach and poised
across your knuckles but
the one thing you cannot open

        Autumn in the bogs,
        wet feathered reeds
        bruised and yellow beneath
        cold stumbling fog.
        “Ho! Wanderer!”
        spoke the king.
        “I know what you need.
        Step here, fear not—
        the surface
        will hold.

        “Come, my daughter:
        You are mine. Make no
        mistake. Come,
        we will dine
        on jeweled snakes
        and frogs
        of gold.”

the curtain like a guillotine must drop
mercilessly to the wooden floor,
the curtain that walls you off
from your dreaming,
the curtain bending against
the sun at your bedroom window.

II. Lament

        Lo-Ruhamah, Lo-Ammi:
        Lama, lama sabachthani?

The girls in the dressing room sit side-by-side,
the last two left after midnight fled the blitzkrieg
of flurried kisses and rose trophies,
and the whitewashed cinder-block walls
let out a last sigh into the stillness.
Sophie closes her eyes, holds out her hand,
drops her pearl earrings, feels Madalena reach over,
smiles, looks at herself in the streaked mirror
ringed with harsh white lights, realizes
she’s alone, cannot find the earrings again,
spends the rest of the night
staring at her fingers.

III. Birth Of The Betrothed

That lagoon and its lavender houses at dusk,
soft gold light mirrored over the shoreline. We are
beyond it almost before we realize—probably
Tatiana is driving too fast—so you and I slip back later
to dangle our ankles in the water.
Who are you? I ask. Three years ago
you were the kindred soul I never thought I’d lose,
but who have you become?
Are you my brother? My father?
Answer me!

Hoshea the king of clean city streets
did not hesitate, splashed straight down into mud and
had his Oxfords swallowed off his feet;
the grass stank from its own rotting and
stuck to his cheeks, and he just kept going.
They say he climbed back out the other side
days later, holding a baby girl,
his tailored outfit good as new
and not a whiff of the swamp on him.
“A baby girl?”
        Maybe his wife, actually.
“Or his wife! Which is it?”
        Look, if I had all the details I wouldn’t be telling
        this story, would I?

IV. You Follow Me

                 if you saw him

The ocean’s pulse is endless here, Poseidon’s bitter wrath
relentless, thrashing at the stubborn sand—and I,
transfixed between—

                standing there, holding out his arms

Foolish daughter, who stole you from me?
Who gave you legs and set you on the land?

                standing there to welcome you to shore

You who were brought forth in iniquity,
your skin is new, soft, not meant
for stones and grass that cut like knives.
Now the saltwater at your ankles—ha!
I see it stings. I see you shrink from me.

                    you would wade
                    you would wade

You will not pass through unharmed. No daughter of mine

                    not only through a sea of wrongs,
                    but through hell itself

Who are you? I do not know you. No daughter of mine

                    if you saw him
                    you would wade

Out on Tiberias we threw our nets
    into dark waves, which crested with a whisper,
splashed cold starlight on our hands, and broke
    the image of the moon cast on the sea.


He just hasn’t made my bed yet,
she used to say, when the ground grew too hard
and she’d sit on a pillow to weed the garden,
when her skin had been folding up for years
and her world had long been slipping toward silence.
It wasn’t that she wanted to leave us,
but I think she was tired.
Did she picture sheets made of stars, smooth
and tucked in like clouds, maybe
smelling like spring blossoms, or like old pine?
Did she dream of quilts crafted by
his careful hand, filled to the binding
with a century’s worth of stories—did she want to see
his gentle smile as he drew the covers to her chin,
did she imagine clean summer wind
as she slipped away to rest at last?
She left so much behind, even my house bends
to gather the pieces. My mother tends
bereaved orchids at the window and keeps
one of her blankets on the living room couch, which
I’ve been hiding under and wondering
if we got it backwards all along: could it be
we were the ones who made the bed, smoothing
sheets and trembling at the emptiness beneath,
the best our human hands could do—
we braced ourselves for night, and
maybe we were wrong,
maybe he burst into the room and threw back the curtains,
maybe he pulled her up as sunlight streamed in
and he sang in his joy, I couldn’t wait
to wake you, there is so much for us to do today,
so many birds and trees and flowers to see,
mountains to scale with your new strong knees and
rivers to splash with your new young feet,
a whole city to show you and all your friends
looking for you, my darling,
my little girl, get up!