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Illustrating the machine that makes the world

ISSUE:  Spring 2006

—after Alice Aycock

An uneasy fog swells from this calligraphy,

    the bloom of recollection decoyed to decay.

Or is it just the morning, breathing after the dull rain,
        cast over the moss banks and downriver

where the reservoir molders its walls. I can’t decide.

    I’m in no position to do so. A woman long ago told me

a pig’s heart was so similar in heft and cell to a man’s
        that she considered finding a pig husband.

A pig pulled her from a bog once, as a child,

    so this made sense for her. Slaughter, she said,

and only then will you begin to live with the blood,
        with the bone of ghost and of lineage.

She was a woman I could not love, so I threw her crinoline

    into the laceweed and got out of there. I was not a pig.

I could see a harem of clothespins trembling in her breast pocket.
        That is how I will remember her.

The fog, remote in our days of tippets and polonaise,

    bearskinned its body to ours, sodden, believable,

a true friend. It had always remained close, dowsing
        in the drowned valley, clairvoyant far upon the bay.

Either way, the fog still knows its music, double-handed

    aubade through the birches, aquarelle on the frost,

soft, broken chords, horsehair and sheepgut. Later in my life
        I knew a pig who sang to the moon,

and to the night and water. Crowds came from their burned

    cities to hear the pig, and fed it rotten apples because

that was all it desired. I realize now that it wasn’t singing.
        It already had a blanket, and some hay to nest in.

It didn’t need to sing. I wish it did. I would have given it anything.

    I wanted it to sing something truthful, something full

of life, like Why are you so slow to punish the wicked or
        Harden your hearts, there is God coming.

A father in the crowd whispered to his child, You won’t remember

    this, will you?
Or was it me whispering to myself,

to the child who lived inside my mouth?
        Because I am old, I now give you the last word.

Always keep the brightest for last.


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