A String of Days
In a hotel with cobalt paint and yellow trim, one room had only books and windows, and
no clocks by which to tell the time. One room was a well within a shaded garden.
Another had only silence for furniture. One room once held a prisoner of war—its walls
covered with messages he scratched on stone with his bare hands before he escaped
into the sunlight, disguised as a bird. A large year, he said: imagine the next three
hundred and fifty five days—I saw them like a round of new-cut keys strung on an
ancient fob. They clacked like so many grains of rice flung out of a winnowing basket.
They floated like a net and brought back good plates, silverware; a pillow and a bed of
changing weather. Some fell on the grass and remained hidden as the clippings from an
infant’s nails. Some shone a little way in moonlight, to make the forest dangerous and
inviting. Some turned into words that housed nothing but rain or the rasp of a blade
across a whetstone. Some filled our hands with indecipherable documents, our mouths
with sleep and the dubious aura of kisses. The other night, half a world away, the skies
were threaded through with ribbons of light and gunpowder. Children banged the lids of
iron pots together to banish the old year and its demons; then they leaped upon the
metal trash bin at the end of the alley and rolled it down the road, scattering its remains.
Catherine-wheels turned into fountains. Judas Belts twitched like saints in rapture. I am
amazed at what we’ll give to witness the explosions of light before our eyes. Eyebrows.
A finger. Imagine an entire hand, severed at the wrist, still clutching the smoking triangle.
“A String of Days” is from Trill & Mordent (WordTech Editions, 2005)