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The Scarlet Ibis

ISSUE:  Summer 2005


It begins on a tip

of the ear in
reality or metaphor—
it doesn’t matter.
The matter out

of which we’re made more
determined than any life
guide shoved at us
by mother or by father.
What is this

condition? What causes it?
What are its symptoms?
How to diagnose it?
To treat it?

Treat it with fear.


On the high curve of the ear,
outside the head’s whir and whirl,
on the flesh without bone—
yet somewhat tough and elastic—
is the singed tip. Sick

wing without any ambition
to fly close to the sun, none-
theless done in by it.
Its relentless glare

on a body overstaying
its welcome
to the planet crust—
should have been already
buried or reduced to ash,
tossed back

into the atmosphere.
Too much consciousness
inflames the diseased

questions (Who will tell
my story? Can thought travel
without the skin vessel?
creates a soot that blows back

into the face, which sucks it in
to become the smudged
mind. The person

who once sat next to me—
held my small hand with tight care—
has become the vague one
I am sitting in. Here,

lies the sore
that does not heal,
the one that will
become the end
of the story
of the low flight journey.


The body not yet anointed with coniferous resins,
not yet packed with wads of linen,
just some sterile pads of gauze and adhesives
to keep the skin bound and grounded
to this space, not yet ready

to slip through the corridor, the chamber,
the great hall, where the Ibis lies bandaged
next to the mummy with its mouth cut
so it can still ask
for some thing if it has cause,
not yet this body with its compression

tape held tight, the wound
where the dug scab once lived—
the crater where I now sleep
curled around the fevered wings
and quiver of a bird with black tips.


Hunting for the margins of the wound,
trying to get past the rancid place
to a paradise of garden
where the ancient tree remains
green and fresh—serves as a canopy
for the monk and his piper—
I found only the sacrifice

of sheep intestines (or was it silk
thread, or perhaps, the lesser nylon?)
attempting to hold the marked
land together. My body
a haunting from which
I could not find the latch

to open, crawl out, inhale, take back
the breaths of WHEN. Though I imagined
and reimagined them—the times
that were and would
not come again. So I returned

to the wound and began
to bury myself there, remembering
the stunned fingers, how they touched
the weeping skin. Those lost

eyes of my mother and her mother—
the look of them. Over

and over again.


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