As it is given, it is whispered, it shall be lost.
It begins with your name
and the marble block that becomes your face.
It begins with a city
where your cry is small as the seeds of coriander.
It begins with a claw foot bath and a wind of pine,
mother’s black hair,
a flickering streetlight, the waxy yellow skin
of starfruit, and sneaking in
to read your father’s manuscript. It begins with seeing a movie
and walking out into a storm. Then everything speeds up.
A jackhammer, lunch counters,
people like a million pebbles, airports, orchids,
dental floss. And soon
you have forgotten that the world is new.
And in the middle, you will be a two piece suit
between traffic signals,
but in the end, the underside of ambrosia
and the breath of green tea.
In the middle, women will come to you naked
with hair clips given to them by their grandmothers,
a sari from the Indian coast,
a limp from when they fell running through the park.
You will watch them try on shoes,
and you will wash them with a vanishing bar of oatmeal soap.
It begins with one woman on a stone bench waiting
beneath a sycamore.
Her body will be filled with torn photographs,
and you will carry them in
and out of Texacos, piece them together by fluorescent light.
When she leaves, it will be because of a complex equation,
a calculus that includes
measurements of how the barges lift the bay, the change
at dusk in children’s pockets,
angles of first hallways, additions and subtractions
of plovers, sandpipers. Or something simple and inscrutable
as the surface of a circle—
the digits of pi will follow her down unrepeating streets
past crates of oranges, gaping
mouths of fish, into other rooms, books that you will never read.
Then there will be strangers, elevators, stones scattered in
indoor hotel gardens.
The giant green wings of luna moths, a broom, dust. Maybe
another, hands like
obsolete maps, maybe children, small moons that seem to wane
as your light fades, swallowed into the texture of hay bales,
into the coffee mug light,
the banana leaf light, you will wash the knives, chop cedar. The sun will keep setting
deeper in your flesh. And the dark,
the dark light. As it leaves, it will whisper, I was never yours.
Arc is from Body of the World (Ausable Press, 2005).