In the empty room the aedile fitted me with a shield and ampoule of hemlock. These terms of my condition were seemly in the hour by which to vindicate authority as I didn’t know the path where the charred driftwood opened upon the sea’s surface, the channel through which your voice might return, failure’s contrition.
I was met among the prophets, anonymous, anointed, a seeker. I was assigned along time’s geologic course. The heat of my body would be short lived. And I heard only in the moment what my guide provided—a diagram, a leaching of earth’s interior. What did he say, how to yield, what was not said. I relished the taste of our language.
And here is the thing about those nights. One minute, in oath, cranes lifted above the estuary, and our munitions embroidered the anonymous country. We hid momentarily between the screen of sumac leaves in air’s thrum—a silver highway of wings. The next moment, a seraph in the tight azure above space, pressured the bird’s formation against scarlet orbs of Orion.
Did I go wool-gathering or less remember my conversion. I held no foresight. Soaked by groundwater, I rest in a bed of chamber-grass under the buzz of crickets and dampened tankers impending plough. The mangrove was a pact between enemies who Soundlessly arrived upon.
There was no inventory of my faults. In hell’s precinct I broke the last heel of bread, held your wrist, a pulse of bacon rind. A pangolins’ scale upon your eye, your face a fresh loam. You were carted into the sweep of survivors who didn’t survive. No blessing. No arrest.
Far along the town’s bombardment all the sleeping casualties remained. A spackle of flies beset earth’s depression of caribou antlers, and each pile of warriors splayed across the ravine became a phrase, a new effort of dialect. Scores of sparrowhawks pressured skylight’s dome. The echo of drums in the reeds was a wormhole to the other territory.
My new formula for grief: who might survive, who, with hammer, might crucify.
I love both illusions: those who ebb out of the trees in a single paradigm—a formless, transparent warp, a spectral lucidity among magnolia leaves, and those whom I am meant to hate.
I was an apprentice to chance, a little madness, a little fawn. Immune to what caution left me.
Yes, in the pre-dark of that century, the night I dreamed you, we spoke in reversals. The immodest horizon held no desire.
And I woke with blood smeared on my white skirt and raw lips. And this was after a line of men one by one entered the Chevy, shared the blow-up doll within my body. And faithless, I floated upward to the saints who brandished their needles and popped each star, and each star in a crest of evil ordained demons.
We met drowning in a hotel room. Liquor filled my lungs, an almost choking in sleep before I reached mid-ocean. No way to find our way toward. We swam miles to the last vessel.
Tide’s haemorrhage was our captor. I lived in the awareness of the trawl: arms and fins mangle of unmeasured cartilage, scale, hair.
The shores were only a representation of maireener shells as wave’s phlegm rushed a surface of leopard spots.
I can tell you I am almost known among the stuffed figures of the endangered—godwit, thylacine, vaquita—in scientific descriptions a bang of my obsidian-capped teeth are a dissolution of the constellations.
Now the eyes of the aurochs are only tertiary colors in the physical realm.
The truth began without a masterpiece. You didn’t believe in the reversal of words, violence as a rehearsal. At my last death, earlier placed among the aquatic fears in the ledgers, you lay down deep beneath the sea. How unfaithful were you to the water spaced over sternum, cartilage in stretches of clay. Every small decision led you, in unrelenting obedience, to repatriation, like a gambler’s evolution, the whack of it, a work unseen. It was your choosing. Speak to me. You, with no sense of completion.
You sat on my shoulder in the other sphere. Two intersections settled. You said I was a player in the creation.
I didn’t reply because I couldn’t figure out why I felt uneasy for you about your plan—you said.
I didn’t know what to do in response. So I told you to dream of work’s physical accomplishments:
Ross Island Pub’s sky faded fence, a splintered cloud where magpie’s feathers stuck to the paint like native heat. Yesterday a verdigris snow fell as pollen.
I clung to my creek-drown child, my impediment, my betrayal.
She would win to lose. As a single person, the matter in which she spoke to herself was the same to them: blunt in her empathy. In a particular set of minutes, prior to the investigation, the lines on the teleconference failed. She applied the procedure: She let them talk. She listened in order to discern ambiguity. She remembered the lighthouse.
She recounted for the foghorn’s moan but found no means by which to determine, beyond location, the ocean’s depth, the brine within her lover’s voice. Her lover’s voice was the only counterpoint in the season’s immaculate negation.
In a few days it would all be impossible to touch him.
The circuitry of snake bite unravelled between them.
From the kill position the unaccounted seasons without touch were an abysmal appeal. She fingered the soil, the wave’s crest when she leaned against his chest. Beams of seaweed lit the planets which opened between their mouths. When he whispered, the futility of separation as utopia’s escape, centuries of unmanageable molecules transmitted a future companionship. This inconsistency of nature was an elective passion.
All she said was: I don’t have an answer to that question.
August 18, 2020
Maureen Alsop Ph.D. is the author of Later, Knives & Trees; Mirror Inside Coffin; Mantic; Apparition Wren (also a Spanish Edition translated by Mario Domínguez Parra); and several chapbooks. She is the winner of the Tony Quagliano International Poetry Award through the Hawaii Council for the Humanities, Harpur Palate's Milton Kessler Memorial Prize for Poetry and The Bitter Oleander’s Frances Locke Memorial Poetry Award. Her poems have been nominated for Pushcart Prize on six occasions. Her poems have appeared in various journals including PANK, The Laurel Review, AGNI, Blackbird, Tampa Review, Typo, Action Yes, Drunken Boat, The Kenyon Review and featured on Verse Daily. Her translations of the poetry of Juana de Ibarbourou (Uruguay, 1892-1979) and Mario Domínguez Parra are available through Poetry Salzburg Review. She teaches online with the Poetry Barn. More on her website.