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institute Sesquiotic



published in Contemporary Verse 2, volume 27, issue 3 (Winter 2004)

In the corner, a patch of darkness. Ropes, rough sinews of the bricked height. Brocade and velvet next. The metal lurking, hanging, like your mother in that dream. It streaks light. In the back there is cream, dusty cream, ankle of the phoenix. Broken. Nothing sits here. The teasers glow in cigarette ash tones - black and white picture, chiaroscuro. Off out of the frame is a stagehand, you can't see him, like he can't see the cigarette he still smells of, but his eyes reflect off this one, here, in the air. Fingers, no feathers, what white blood stripes the blinking space? A wrist, the angle of pouring, an arm, like the inner thigh of your first girlfriend. Beneath the shoulder, shaved, lapsed into the black wine again, like that one part you never reached (Eurydice? Narcissus?). But the face urges forward. The eyes, closed, how can they see what she will come to? The eyes, so strong behind the lids that they press through them, and skin like your grandmother's when she was finally still, smoothed, dreaming forever of her moment. This is a moment, one among no end of moments, like the thoughts you already forget. But the neck, too old, too strong. And the chest: there is nothing there, nothing, an absence. What is she, now, twelve again, and ninety-four as well? Inchoate as youth, bound and burned as she will be in her last moments. You can follow down to the stomach, but look to the sides, look, you are missing it: the beautiful countryside, the town, a painting like a continuo, a hum in milk and murk; trees, drooping, sighing all colour away. Never mind, look back: the legs are out like streams of water splitting two ways in the mud. You watched her in your dead lawn when you were nine, these liquid sinews, drenched, your own head channeling a spout where now her vacant womb hides. The flow runs in both directions, left and right; which will you follow? But here, now, each leg ends, is caught in a cup of silk (what colour was it?), wrapped, tied, bruised, bound. Crushed, stubbed out. Broken. What sweat and dirt fuel this, how can the grease of life make the weightless angel dangle so? How has the past been crushed, how has the future already been grunted against? You can see the spot where it will end. The boards, polished, sprung. You might have been there yourself. The floor in your nursery, less its peeling varnish. The man back there, he spiked this, he pulled the ribbon of tape and marked his cross. Where is it? Nothing to see. Now just glowing lines at the bottom, and an intake of breath. She will come to land, break and bend, as your first dream waits to break upon you. The shadow, hanging behind, slides to rejoin. A speck there (on the negative?). A last gathering smoothness. In the corner, a patch of darkness.


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