I wanted to take a selfie with the world
but her black eye could not be covered
nor the midnight in her gait so I asked
her to dance instead. Two moons in her
feet, two stars, two phosphorescent fish—
how they swam across her strange islands,
dragging behind them lines of tackle and bait.
Protruding from her side, an arrow fletched
with mottled turkey feathers bled splinters
and dust around her own scarred-over wound.
She did not cry as she lifted her broken
and bangled arm to drape across my shoulder
but it was then I saw she was bleeding from
her nose and breathing shallow, arrhythmic
waves of pain. On her banks, squid and starfish
washed up dead and slicked in black. Who did
this to you? I asked, thinking of revenge. She
pointed, then, at me, rewrapped her arms around
my neck, and we began our next dance as one
bold shadow against the petrochemical glow.
She won’t sell the country house. Not yet!
And not because of Locust Lake, sailboats in summer.
Alders in snow. Not because of the long view of the Poconos,
Those graduating waves of forest green fading
To watery sage tiered like a chiffon dress.
Lost in those folds, the dizzy roller coaster
Of marriage, sickness, the push pull of desire.
Paul planted peonies. She, a lover
Of woodblock prints, bamboo, and toro nagashi:
Lit lanterns set free on a river.
Her tears water the earth where peonies proliferate.
In life, he betrayed, but in death transmogrified,
Missed. At night, she denied him the touch
The skin he craved. You can’t have it both ways,
She reminded. Just now, she wants it exactly
Both ways. Perfect in life. Perfect in death.
Now that he’s gone, her loneliness blooms. Tissue thin,
She is married to the million petalled profusion of pink.
The peonies are her private toro nagashi, his soul reunited
With hers. She needs, him, and his perfect peonies.
“Besides,” she cries, “It’s such a short season.”
Cold and another storm
coming, the weather liminal,
littoral. I dream of shores
and memory, of my sister
suddenly more herself,
the body of the past.
Bodies are precious.
The Syrian child, a girl,
on the front page of this
morning’s Times, come
home from school to find
no home. Her house razed,
nothing is said about her
family: where were they,
were they killed, does she
have a family living,
a living family?
She is pale, stunned, her
eyes empty. Her shawls,
bead necklace look like
those my five year old
would wear, an array
mirroring a fey
Katie, who yesterday
comes down alone to
our rooms, assuming an
independence new to her,
fragile but precious, to
visit her plants, which
I’ve kept safe here from
the predations of
her little dog.
I can keep those
plants safe. They
are not children.
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