Night. Or what
they have of it at altitude
like this, and filtered
air, what was
in my lungs just an hour ago is now
there’s only so much air to go
around. They’re making
more people, my father would say,
but nobody’s making more land.
When my daughters
were little and played in their bath,
they invented a game whose logic
largely escaped me —
something to do with the
of bubbles and plastic ducks — until
I asked them what they called it. They
were two and four. The game
was Oil Spill.
Keeping the ducks alive, I think,
was what you were supposed to
contrive, as long
as you could make it last. Up here
in borrowed air,
in borrowed bits of heat, in costly
cubic feet of steerage we’re
held note, as when the choir would seem
to be more
than human breath could manage. In
the third age, says the story, they
divided up the earth. And that was when
the goddess turned away from them.
from De Arte Honeste Amandi
How Love, When It Has Been Acquired, May Be Kept
That was when the war was on, the one we felt good
to hate, so of course I thought he’d come from there.
It was June. The light grown long again.
She’d roll his chair to the window
and back. But no, you said, it was love.
They were getting it wrong.
A leg. A leg. An arm to the elbow.
Like the man who burned his daughter to get
good winds. The sea for days had been flat
as the sky. He’d walk while the light went down
and could only tell the water from the air by the drag
below his knees. So this is what it’s like
to have no body. A perfect benevolent temperature.
The wheels of the chariots grind
in the hulls of the ships. He lay so still he honeycombed,
may he be safe, may we be sound. The time
they bargained for came piece by piece.
Indications That One’s Love Has Returned
There’s an illness, of the sort that’s named for a man
who first imagines that disparate threads might be threads
on a loom, that is called his syndrome, and frightens
the weaver, who cannot unravel by night
what she sees in the day. Their table had the sun for hours.
The piazza was white. They talked
about physicians at home, whose stories were longer, if less
in accord. And about the morning months ago
when the color first spread beneath her eyes.
From cheekbone to cheekbone, the smallest vessels had burst
in a pattern called butterfly, they’d named that too,
as the tour guides name rocks till you can’t see the
anymore, but Witch’s Cauldron and Hornet’s Nest.
The wings went away. The course of the river that carved
is air now, and baffles intent. She’d been used to a different notion
of course, the kind you might follow for love of the thing
or of knowledge, the wings in the glass.