Her socks like withered lampreys
Sit on the sill to dry and drenched
In last night’s fog. Here’s a box
Of hers found yesterday: a fishing fly, a whiskey
Cork she must have sniffed to reminder her of her favorite.
This is her hunting blade and I imagine
It shimmying up the abdomen of a dangling fawn—
Serrations like a line of thumb prints—
Her wrist jack-hammering like a sewing
Machine needle as she smoked and sucked a sugar cube.
Suturing or slicing, who knows what
Came to mind as she looked past the feminine-
Curved dish liquid bottle at the bucket of gore
On the porch: crimson-filmed, coiled,
Blood pooled around pale dorsals….
Perched like a gable, her paperback’s
Arched spine’s on a toppled
Tumbler with a copper-colored line
Of liquor in its beveled esophagus. A pillow feather
Like a burst firework, in a breeze we don’t see, tosses on and off.
Where the hillside doglegs, in the valley’s
Crease, lights go on in the three-storey town;
Above arcs a still-lit sky, purple seeping
In at the circumference. Faint stars,
Cloaked destinies, and constellations are
Bright smear: the horse, a carousel stallion
On a pole under a dusty tarp,
Awaits clearance. A rider
Is pedaling fast down the hill, abandoning caution
To trust no pair of headlights will cross her in advance
Of the car rounding the turn. Headphones clamped
To her ears trail wisps and coattails of rhythms
Dissolving like intentions in her wake while beneath
The whole settlement quakes with a purpose only she
Perceives. Peacock feathers like eccentric skeletons
Of brief-lived species are what she thought of
When she set the house on fire. The spiral
Of her descent tightens to a point at the police
Station. She dismounts, climbs the stairs;
A message is clenched in her fist.
What enables coming-into-being? Disregard
For the potency of another? Subordination
Of peers? Casual acquaintances reassigned
To persons of interest?
Her evolution required this and one extra item:
Sacrifice, he thought, wandering the arson scene,
The lawyer who convicted her. Some victory:
A confession in the form of a copied couplet,
Folded on itself—Siamese Ws—un-accordioned
On the desk of the police chief. She’d biked
Down, appeared in a mist of secondhand
Beats. She smelled of accelerant.
Over her shoulder, above the crown
Of the hill, feathery orange flames stroked a black
Smoke column. An exotic pet bird beating its wings,
Lost in a living room curtain, thought the officer at first,
The lawyer guessed. He fished up a cigar box,
Tipped it back and forth; cinder-skinned water
Tossed and the finest hairs of a fly
Gathered in fright wig points.
The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution,
These are documents I know little about
But like the sound of: start your own country
By saying so; a kit for constructing
Society. “Let’s be Cubans!”
She announced one night after dinner.
I was two whiskeys down and one in the wings.
“What the fuck?” “No really,” she said.
“I’ve been reading about it. Let’s be
Ngangas.” And she hauled out a dented, aluminum
Flower pot, cigars, a lighter, and on phony
Parchment, from a jackdaw file she’d stored
Since middle school—Writings of the Founding
Fathers—the one with the familiar
Insurance company logo. The other resembled
A product assembly guide, or a loan
Agreement: all numbered clauses. “Tear them up,”
She said. I laughed, shredded and tossed
Them into the pot. She lit the cigar, puffed, one hand halving
The smoke, scrolling like ink in water.
Not to love the future is un-American. Successions
Of fireworks launch, climax, flatten:
Bright patterns of shatter, crisscrossing
Arcs shimmering in Zorro signatures. Before
They shower, a kind of palmistry is practiced.
Incandescence, ascent—what’s left behind’s
What these stars foretell. Francis Scott Key,
Bombers alighting for Bagdad—“a sweet,
Beautiful sight”—our brightest hopes are always dashed,
Stripes with ellipses, trailing off….
What’s unsaid? To be born over again’s
The only promise. To survive on death. I work to remember
My vows: Behold, I have graven thee on the palms of my hands;
We hold these truths to be self-evident.
I do. History is clouds.
They lay on their backs that Fourth of July
Watching fireworks from the beach.
The sand got sexy with her, as it does with me,
He thinks, a little avalanche below the crease in her crotch
As a spider splatters its egg, radiates, and sinks in sulfur.
In this big box store, an aisle of widescreen
Flat panel TVs transforms
To tunnel walls, the duplicate heads
And rippling texts contractions
That propel her up, force her forward.
Not the lack of faith but the damage done
When faith persists. Not abundance
But paralysis at its brightly-colored options,
Burst balloon skins you can’t slough
Off but accumulate, like toy burdens.
Below toenail diadems, she sees her herself
Squirting lighter fluid zigzags. She strikes;
Combustion races the along the lines
Of its biography, consuming stuff:
Carcass, whiskey, dish soap, lover.
What it’s like to be born, radiant,
In mid-air, and hover? To be old like a star,
Tingling with history, a kiss of ash, one looped moment,
She wonders as she greets her first headwind, like standing
At the top of a hill and waving at a cyclone….
She could go anywhere, she could go either way.
She’s been a long time gone, she’ll be here to stay.
She is weightless. She weighs
Her options. She’s exhausted.
She is radiating. She is purpose
Waiting above the sleeping town.
She is witness to the drained
Whiskey glass, and, in the wake
Of the passerby, the brief orbit
Of the down satellite. All she has is consequence,
Stuff, and absences. She’s in search
Of the source that brought her here. What she finds:
It is forever was. And over there.
And she’s behind. And aftermath. But,
She forgets, and when numbers descend from heaven
She picks up one and puts it in her mouth.
She starts to sing and the music of words unfamiliar to each
Other, congressed for the first time, is like
The muscular crook of an arm creased
Around her neck, then rising, then falling, with her breath.