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Empty Nest

ISSUE:  Winter 2008

Pubic tufts, thyme & moss, are greening
 again in the clefts of the wall

latticed by the first flails of warm, late winter,
 and so she removes her shirt

to walk in the garden. Drowsy wasps.
 Velvet, verdigris fontanels

of narcissus, tulip, grape hyacinth
 crown at her toes. She looks down,

face obscured by gauze swagging
 the brim of a wide, straw hat.

Over her left breast, an emerald scar.
 Ink pours from her right,

& in her hand, a heart-shaped stone she carries
 snags the cumulous silks of her skirt.

ii. She has been dreaming,
wakes in a muslin shroud
of sweat & shadows.
Good. The image is hers—
she can use it in the print shop:
first the amnesia of resin, melted soft-ground
felting the zinc plate, hardening,
then the sharp stylus
cross-hatching the veil,
drawn nipples, swart thatch, no way
at this point to make the milk flow
anything but black, & with each
stroke, piles of zinc filings, eyelashes,
slips of baby nails, tendrils the wren might gather—
a welter of vines, hair, weeds—& the feet
emerging from a drapery of skirt
in annunciation, as then, in gloves,
she flips the exhaust fan, its switch
beneath a red sign, skull & crossbones,
& with lowered mask and metal tongs,
lays the plate in its acid bath.

Is there someone in the hallway?
 Perfume of her daughter, tangle
of wet hair, smoke, yeasty thread

of wine, her kiss like the other side
 of a prayer, I’m home, go back
to sleep, I’ll leave the key here,

beside your glasses—
 Ah, so the print-making
was a dream, too. Lucky.

Because she’d forgotten to bevel
 the edges of the plate, to time
the bath, wet the paper,

or how to do a surface roll
 of gold, & also the recipe
for the gesso she’d need to tease out—

from head-drape, bare foot, fisted stone—
 any light within that body
she might call her own.

The windows slowly turn white—
petri dishes culturing an endless,

filmic loop of new days.
The ravine behind the high school

cradles the vacant whistle
of a passing train, autopsy

of the most lonely cry. Then silence
before the birds. Myopic,

burdened, she reaches across the table,
folded book, cupped dregs of vin blanc,

eyeglasses, to stop the alarm before its reveille,
& of course there is no key.


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