Anne Shaw

Caution, Freight

In the river of my dream I’m ankle-deep
in the water’s muddy froth, my cuffs rolled up. A manatee or alligator
swims at me and rises, hugely brown. It’s the size of a submarine
with dull, enormous eyes. You call it hell dog and begin
to flee. The narrator of the dream informs: The hell dog rises from the river,
fixes its eyes on the head of its target prey.
I’m about
to miss my flight for Panama, having dallied too long in your arms.
Meanwhile, on the coffee table, an orange deer circles its glass.
It is a small restitution. Apricot syrup and hearts of palm
stiffen with dust in the pantry. These things keep.
How each mahogany chair leg prefigures elegy. Of memory,
permit a skep. Of pollen, suffice it to say, a single grain.
Later, we walk through winter, each small hesitation recorded in the snow.
Narrow the spans: remorse, intent. Narrow the bands of light.
We do not indulge in jungles, savannahs, or the sky.
The seconds tick by like boxcars. One mississippi. Two mississippi. Three.

Anne Shaw
“Caution, Freight” is from Undertow (Persea Books, 2007).