I am found,
just by chance,
in the clammy, whitewashed hours
of morning: laid
upon the earth.
My sunken heart
is rolled around
behind the quick-closed door of death:
a silent bell in
a baby’s rattle.
Soon after, I am
lifted into a box,
which is stuffed like a fat goose
with offered elegies,
and then sealed.
Sodden and limp,
the smell of me gone off,
the lamplights of my eyes put out:
all my body,
dun and done.
For just a minute
let me pretend
you aren’t there
and that the sounds
I can hear
are the sounds
against the sky
and not your
When we were kids we’d sometimes
sneak out into the plum orchard
and steal our parents’ wine to drink.
In the dead of night, like jailbirds hidden
beneath the trees, we picked at branches
and planned for foreign days ahead.
It’s funny now to think we never seemed to
eat a plum in time, being always so
bitter, or sick and wet with ferment and rot.
Each season brought a purple harvest;
the sweetly cankerous smell
hanging low above the slack, damp ground.
Even now I sometimes remember
us, and how the whispers of
anxious leaves would rustle up the dawn.
Though we don’t know each other now –
and isn’t that always the way? –
I remember when we weighed our futures
and how for us, the dark, rank fruits
burst their vernix jackets, and spilled
violet ink beneath a chasmal sky.
(Ophelia by John Everette Millais)
Limply sails Ophelia, whose pretty mouth
imbibed the river’s liquor,
now she wears her rue with a difference;
the flowers venture slowly south –
long past her hung-wide jaw –
coiled about her seeping flesh;
her tongue’s gone bad and
she’ll sing no more.
I met him in the woods,
by the creek. The
desiccant grass bristled
underfoot; the trees refused
the coaxing wind,
as we traipsed our awkward path
to the water.
Absurd, to say he
have loved me.
As absurd as stepping
into the creek itself,
amidst the plaited weeds –
tremulous and sleek.
The moonless night has wrung out
hours of day,
and snowflakes gather like lint
from the open pocket
of the sky.
Somewhere, a corncrake caws into
its echo rings,
and in the woods beyond, branches
crack like splintered bones
in the chill.
I lay low beneath the frozen earth,
sink my body,
and you will not think to look beneath,
so you will not hear or
see me there.