In the Garden, After
Zebra Longwings, Monarchs, Blue Clouds lurid against
yellow goldenrod, the stems riddled with galls, the galls with larva,
x’d open by a woodpecker’s stabbing beak.
We walk where the life is spilling out, where the prey
views the predator with indifference. If not this way, another.
Until then, the spread of genetic material.
To protect your skin from the sun, carry this green umbrella,
spin the handle, soft shoe; it’s the long summer and we
require a gentle entertainment. The children are swarming,
querulous in the heat, ignoring the prohibition against touching
pagoda gold, the hand-painted beams shipped from Thailand
over the seas. Every year the pagoda shines less, every year
naga statues guard the bridge with expressions of reproach.
My hand hasn’t one atom of gold on it. No excess worth
lines my nails. The raptors in their cages glazed with boredom,
kestrels and kites, the yawning owls, all track us as we pass,
jessed for public display, for demonstrations of ferocity
in service to delight. This dumb show. This mock danger.
Happy in service, pleased to be part of, my hand in yours,
grasping at some semblance of normal. This is how
foreign substances are absorbed, we grow around the hurt,
eat as we ate before, laugh as we once laughed, present
damage as decoration, our fingers borrowing gleam by
caustic oils—darling, when they walked from that other
bed of flowers they had just learned shame. For us to
advance we must learn to lance that swelling.
The Room Where There is Still Love
Because he was inside the room
the outside garden seemed darker, the dark lawn
lit only by the occasional firefly, so that his perception
of it came to him through a series of stills,
one golden lawn chair,
one bird bath, empty,
none of it particularly compelling, though once
he could see a late-night dinner
at that rough hewn table under the oak
and a beer in a young woman’s hand,
running down her wrist
in the hot night,
but why that wrist not another’s,
why that drop of moisture or his mouth’s desire?
It was all the same as what he circled,
in the center of the room
the bed and the woman’s
hair across the pillow just as he’d left it,
her hip’s curve exaggerated by her posture,
she was sleeping when he awoke, still
inside her, and there seemed no way to wake her,
and in that sleep she smiled, at times,
as if something pleased her
and he couldn’t remember if they’d ever spoken.
In the morning, the room was a lattice of light.
The mockingbirds called to him and he sang right back
but they knew his song already, had a copy ready,
and carried it off as their own.