In firelight, the bone-black horses
rear like wind-bent trees, the iron arrows
strike flickering hair
like lightning, ochre and charcoal
like the shadows
named by Plato’s prisoners,
our every reality turned allegorical,
a tale thrummed on the skin of a drum
taut as the stomach of hunger
crouched around the scent of ash.
There were more lives in-between, but
Flash forward: my fears
are whale-boned and embroidered
and laced in place
like a stomacher on an open gown.
They extend below the waistline. It is impossible
for me to sit down.
Confined, now, to the finger-spaces
of your gloves, which, like your hat, were thick
and reliable, your bare-handed
secrets rest easy
like skeletons in lambskin closets.
When you roll down the cuffs
over your wrists, it is like shaking
the handle of a locked door. The fingers tense
and still. On the outside, no one
suspecting anything —
When the drake, theatrical
in his death, pens his last words in the margin,
and the hares sharpen their axes
and fletch their arrows
and Red Riding warms the goose eggs
dreaming of three dozen wolf pups
helpless and mewling
in a large reed basket that is
the shape of the song
of the white hind’s bugle — then the manuscript
ceases to appear as vines, as newt-prints,
as smoke rings blown from the beak
of a pheasant and upsets
its knowledge like tipping
a vessel full of marigold seeds and
Not quite anyone
Defined by her vanishing
A dialectic threshold
Extension with no dimension
Because you locked me out
I am eating purslane.
And all the things I did not plant:
fiddleheads, rhubarb, my shirt bundled
like an apron around the seasonal
darlings, something raw
held to my mouth. I am stained
with early strawberries, which fall
like buttons from a glove.
So much for fastening
my wrists among all these leaves
and crisp roots, content as Rapunzel’s mother
before she began scaling
There’s so much to hide.
The whole world a tent, wide-flapped,
like an 18th century skirt.
When the ashes have all been scattered and the snow
has turned into nothing, leaving
faint indents where the dead had been sitting, complacent, and all is not
what it is but what it isn’t, what you cannot say about it,
like a secret touch of the hand beneath the table, there.
You dip into the past, long-handled,
like Rogers & Hammerstein’s doe-eyed Cinderella offering
water to the party of hunters, flinching and smudged
from the fireside. The cardboard scenery
comes alive when you look at it sideways, the trees
breathing like unfurled sails.
We brought cucumber sandwiches & iced tea
made from yellow dust.
Come in, I said, the water’s fine, and small grey aliens
were doctoring my limbs like acorns
in a tin pail. What did you mean
when you stopped, crouched
at the top of your mind,
the whole bright space whittled
down to eyeholes? Pocketing the filched honey
quietly, your cotton dress pocked
with sugary hexagons.
In the castle that I captured, there is almost
The sunfishes, who no longer
know me, shelter in a root-cave. I shiver
under the stick of barbed legs, picking
shiny-winged things out from under leaves,
copper pots on water, zoomorphic
in their upset — dear madam,
I write, what is it called
when a place moves on without you?
Living, I mean.
The letters, no longer weighted, fold
themselves into a starched hiding place.
It was when the forsythia emptied itself into the yellow
air: having clipped the stems, yellow
to the elbows, and having arranged them in all her old vases,
mirrored and mercury, until they cast yellow
shadows over the dry sink and pie-safe, vaguely
metallic — yes, I said, turning my hands over in those yellow
pools, jewel-like, from partial to full eclipse, in this new empty
what was there to do but to cower, yellow
bellied, amongst the lost and found, rooting, raccoon-like,
in the dust and corners and the lemon-balm and the yellow
adder’s tongue and to pull everything up and apart,
searching, my small hands peeling back the yellow
corners of journals and albums and prying open
boxes, wincing, as though opening a turtle’s yellow
painted shell, and worrying my name like a paste gemstone
in a loose setting, its foil backing scuffed and peeled and yellow.