Henrietta Goodman


Does the devil use his tail as a weapon?

My son wants to know. He sees the abstract

made manifest—angular petal, red kite,

black heart on a cable. The heart itself

is an arrowhead, flint. Its point 

is tangential, provocative, the brain’s


vexation. No sparks today. Rain falls

so hard the drops ricochet in shattered

rings around the waterlogged worms—

crowns for the kings of the ground.

In the kitchen, an army of mildew

advances, trillions in gray-green


uniforms. The same invasion conquered

the trunk my mother brought back

from London in 1955, marched over

her clarinet concertos, her pink-tipped

reeds, colonized her letters. The blue

envelopes came, then stopped. Chameleon


on the rock of home, she lay barely

blinking in the Southern sun, her father

coughing sharp black specks

like the spores of a wart. She lay

like one of the dolls in the mineral

house he made—windows of mica,


asbestos pillows—Snow White

in transparent suspension, her mother

saying go. After the rain, the lilacs

smell sweet, then sweeter. They look

as lovely as yesterday, but their bruised

scent is making a different point.