out of you?
from the gut?
Keep the middle
way, they say—
much ever happens
in that vacant nest.
Me, myself, and I— now we’re mostly friends. But I can remember
a different time when I fought with one, hid from another’s shadow.
I’ve never sleep-walked, and I can’t imagine being my own
doppelgänger… Whose ghostly shadow lives in the shadows?
Once, at a writing retreat in a castle, the fire burned down in the grate.
Was it the cold and damp that woke me at dawn, or was it a sitting shadow?
Villagers told of a lady walking the ramparts at night. Heartsick
or homesick? Before she became a bride, she turned to shadow.
In Kurosawa’s famous film, a thief passes for the warlord who has died.
No one knows who plays flute music in the fields; eventually, all is shadow.
But what purchase this world still has over us— Mornings are green and lilac,
afternoons rouged with jewel hues; nights star-lit, though smudged with shadow.
Bend your head, I say to the child
who steps out of the bath,
so I can rub this film of oil
on your nape. And as she does,
her long dark hair falls down;
and in it is the dusk of leaves
from the resinous woods;
and sunlight’s indelible
musk in the softest
spot of the crown.
expect a rain of spiders.
If they retreat to the bamboo grove,
you know it is to write poems on each stalk.
If rain is warm on your skin, go
into the backyard with a bar of soap.
If it slips out of your hand and floats
on the river, the capsized ferry
will arrive ten minutes ahead of schedule.
If thunder makes the sound of a hundred forks
falling to the floor, bring out wine glasses.
If the cat licking itself
is facing the door, expect guests.
If the color of the sky is indistinguishable,
you are allowed to start over.
If your friends turn first blue
then petulant, tell yourself
it’s only weather.
If the tilde is missing
from the n in your name,
you know you are done with that.
Of course the bird was on the payroll of the witch. Little sneak, little tattle-tale, it took its fill of crumbs then flew off to let her know she could throw more wood into the fire: Dinner’s coming! The moon shone fitfully through the trees, its face of salt-raised bread as porous as the tales whispered to children in their beds. What’s that glinting under the trees? The smell of sugar wafts through the abandoned house like bad mojo. But what if she were simply a foil, a decoy, an easy target for the bones of a different story; some gypsy, homeless waif herself, subsisting by her wits alone at the edge of the world? Eventually, tresses begin to resemble a nest of twigs where there’s no call for hair appointments. Of course it will seem as though we stirred whole stews out of thin air, rolled dough into darling dumplings shaped like babies. I think the usual language for it is Making do. If I were you, I’d search for politicians lurking in the trees. If I were you, I wouldn’t believe all the stories I heard. Women are always getting a bad rap. Even the girl sitting alone in her room, stroking the fur of her cat, can wind up being blamed for stuff that disappears from the kitchen downstairs. Especially the one reading a book.
Zealots aplenty, in these days of misplaced belief; sure,
you can’t tell if the guy in the seat next to you’s an
ex-convict, but it’s just as difficult to discern
whether the suit across the aisle might have a moral
vacancy beneath all that expensive Italian wool and seemingly
unblemished perfection. A cultivar’s a plant variety
that’s forced from selective breeding— We’ve all heard
such histories: the dusky nanny under the pecan tree
reaching for her breasts and popping them into mouths so
querulous with hunger they don’t wonder why one tongue is
pink against the nipple’s dark areola, and the other
onyx. That’s a different time, people will say.
Nostalgia makes the past seem better. In the present,
meanwhile, we suffer the public bungling of fools
looking to ascend to public office. Wisdom,
kingliness, humanity, hope: we’ve grown wary,
jaded from exposure to their magnitude of lies.
Isn’t it time for the season to turn?
Have all the birds flown south for winter?
Gather the tender-leaved indoors and shield them
from the coming frost. Scarlet-lined, afternoons look
especially beautiful in autumn. It’s almost as if
death might never come reaping. Destiny’s a work
cobbled from castoffs. So come over here,
buy me a drink, offer your shoulder; buy us
a little more time before it all comes down.
Deckle. Deckle— I like the sound of that.
And I like the sound of riffled papers,
of the bookmaker folding sheets and tearing
pieces off along a straight edge, by hand.
Then there’s the unexpected: discovery
of a paper cut along the thumb, sudden
script of water poured over its envelope flap.
The curtains part, the lion roars to signal the beginning of the story. The clatter of the reel in the silence of the hall, the grainy colors on the film. A woodpecker drills holes in the wood: repeats, repeats. You sit in the darkened theatre on a worn velvet seat. A woman’s face comes on the screen, as if in rapture though flames lick at her bound feet. It’s always like this— there’s danger at every turn, or the tedium of long afternoons as days shade toward winter. You learn to carry your own epiphanies. I prefer the versions with no dubbed captions: the eyes say so much more, and hands are good for gestures. Before too long, music foreshadows the closing credits. A scroll floats before your eyes with the words The End.