– Leah Silvieus –

From here, I climb the narrow island
through moon rock, shallows wide and white
                          as desert and survivor-littered:
jellyfish cruel and translucent in sea grass,
sand dollars melting black velvet.
Even the sea cannot contain itself:
I reel in a small sunfish, hook-torn
at the gills; I still toss him back,
as if by returning alone –
as if salvation –
only the limp float of his bright underside
              remains, a thin slice of flame among reeds.
I taste the salt on my lips,
                           wonder if this is how it began
              for the woman who turned
against God to watch her only city burn.

We unearth places we once lived, the house
              sundered by lichen, drawers withering
              with summer herbs, the mammal
                           scent of soured boots,
              cedar fronds rotting
                           rooftop gutters. Tell me
about the brass bed frame,
              what love once wracked there
                           and of its leaving. Tell me
of each fountain swan, feathers greened with sea
              air. Sing me the names of everything lost,
              each ash and wing. Invent them if you must.
I listen everywhere for the psalm
that echoed off the stone walls
in the winter chapel:
yet is their strength labor and sorrow;
                                    for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.
Ives’ dissonant harmonies like walls shuddering
inward – we spend our days as a tale that is told
I sand the music as if the melody
could sculpt our sinews back to bone.
Months tide shores of unanswered letters;
I write you as if you were dead.
I think of collapse, its Latin roots
meaning to fall together – imagine
cathedral arches, spine-sharp
                            leaning toward and toward
              to imprison saints radiant in shards –
Now, too late, I understand
              I did not mistake desire
but its direction – somewhere beyond –
              a music half-remembering itself.
Look how we fail in increments
                             like last century’s estates, opening
              into stone arches;
                             even as we refuse
to go, see how the body takes us there, without
              our blessing or consent.
after the festival           you exhaled                sprawled
on the basement floor             quiet  for once
possibly content                                    for an hour we breathed
late light  there two solitudes                pooled together
then                    unlike time and time before                I just turned
the brass knob and watched you leave           our rucksack history
slung over your shoulder           in that silence             we discovered
the door          we’d razed cities and sabotaged bridges to find
I excavate a lamp
from the basement –
how satisfying to draw
the shade taut, to tear
bulb from carton and pull
the chain. To make light.
              I need to see
                          what I agreed
                          to leave;
is it the light
I love or is it leaving
everything else in darkness?
The empty room asks:
Now, then, what do you want?
Here, tangerines like paper lanterns
wait for night to rob their glow.
Oil on the canal as if from a dreamer,
beneath. Here let us claw
match and flint; let us ask with fire
what the water has forgotten.