Riding the Crocodile
This is my fresh blood: their bodies.
My husband entering her. Covers her, thickens her,
unties her hair, her mouth.
through the halls of their new house. My daughter and her headless mother
buy two tickets to the apocalypse.
A crocodile ferries a woman over the waves.
(It’s a painting by Kobayashi Kiyochika.)
One of my sentences hits an atmospheric peak.
Rises to that godless night where dogs gnaw
butterflies in repose.
Come down, my God. Unlock
your bite and blow, nudge the clouds.
Nudge the waves. So we reach the beach. So our bleeding clots.
Or let it dissolve in the ocean’s dusk.
So, in a window in the future, an old woman forgives.
I was reading the Portrait d’une femme and listening to Janet Barker
when I thought of your eyes
and other fugitives from ultramarine minds.
Reading and listening was your stage, when the proscenium
spilled over with marbles (you watched your step)
rolling like worlds.
But you walked forward.
The curtain lifted, and the seats were packed with fathers and mothers,
as if it were a school play.
In that scene, Ezra Pound told you, “You're patient,
on the ready for whatever floats up,”
and the parents didn’t understand, but they shed a few tears,
which they wiped with the backs of their hands. At the sight of them,
and stood for the rest of the play
gazing at the sky on set.
He did right, because the rest of the poem does you no justice,
and the air tinted indigo, and the gathered tears
left under the sea.
There the marbles melted like sugar cubes.
As you swam to the surface, I thought back
to your favorite novels and told myself,
how great, how great, what a blue intelligence. And the song ended.
Your children mopped the theater
as you walked out onto a French street, to cry for the rutty water,
the grim tablecloths with mildewed silverware,
and with a single step, you abandoned
that audience, which glimmered like gold on the dead.
Sixth Movement (Transfigured Night)
The green meteor already crossed the dawn. The ones who fought in real life for equality and freedom were already old. One was in the hospital. The other wrote books. They lived separate lives, but now and then, they remembered a shirt, a drink, a song, like medals of bravery, for having tethered their feet to the other shore. They made that place in the distance by walking on water, trailing fish. Someone betrayed them, and they lost their battle. Having lost, one turned into a pigeon; the other went to jail. Years passed, and their battlefield littered over with propaganda and domestic animals. The meteor on its long trajectory swept through our sky sometimes, and the pigeon took wing on the eve of deceit. From dusk to dawn, the prisoner lured it with crumbs. The green glow crowded out the constellations, and all acts of cowardice waited for dawn. I knew about the meteor’s never-ending rounds, and I always walked home scolding myself: Aren’t you sick of this spectacle, of how it feeds your painful hope? Why don’t the pigeon and the prisoner write the names of the brave in the sky, until that glittering list crowds out the stars? But the lemon-green flame was unforgettably luminous, and before I even reached my house, before I opened the door, its brightness had entirely occupied my mind.