by Sarah Klein

12/16/99

Paradise

Late
you awake in darkness,
expecting something familiar.

The night train,
or a blue northern coming.

The old cat who sleeps at the end of the bed,
she is not restless,
and the spring roses are not;
but the lover, he forgets.
His quick hand
on your face maps your loss.
His quick eyes
are nothing known to you,
the rope breaking when you fell
from a tree swing as a girl.

In paradise, this running
would be a dance.
Not Yes and No;
but always Yes.

Sk


Blue Moon

Packing up the house for Washington,
Mr. Hernandez arrives to give me help.

I hadn’t expected him
Who has lived his whole life in Blanco, but prefers Amarillo.
Who always carries a small rusted box.
Who won’t let me cook for him
or bring him coffee.
Who turns off my air conditioning without asking first.
Who tells me city living makes for a bad attitude.
Who says I’ll come home soon enough.
Who worries that my cat may be obese.
Who calls me Mija as if it’s my name,
as if daughter is my name.

Mija.
He says it again, and again,
every chance he gets.

Like a courtly lover,
he wants the way it feels
when a word shapes his mouth
without fear or familiarity.

Sk



 Winter

Grief begins with two empty hands
and a walk through blackberry woods at dusk,
here beside unspoken trees and their unspoken snowy crowns,
tucking themselves into the woolen coat of night,
unconcernedly, so silently, and folding as if
they are folding forever.

Underground they also reach, to birth
in its best incarnation, its deep icy love,
bereft of the goldenrod
and the Indian paints who succeed the freeze.

You are learning the mystery of trees and seasons,
absent of Persephone and absent of Demeter,
memorizing the dignity,
all the many small dramas of atonement,
a careful suspension just above the earth.

This is winter,
and it is big enough to hold you.

-- SK


Dancer Adjusting Her Slipper

 

Degas sketched, and loved, in granite, fluid in her bounds,
the dancer, moving, no, not moving, adjusting her slipper.

He came to know her in graphite, heightened by white chalk,
on parchment. On faded pink parchment.

One frame of his map, the face, the ear, turning away, gorgeous and heavy in youthful age,
listening intently, not to the artist, never to the artist himself, she with strange, indelicate nose,

wisp of dark hair, and shoulder encased, immaculate in the order of silks, and laces,
hearing, seeing, tasting the violin and cello, the light, the space outside the beholder.

One frame of his map, the breasts arranged as they fall, positioned together in ornate form.
All the symmetry of the old crumbling masters will culminate here, the unwritten curve

of shallow pales, shadows, in lines and hollow turns of skin, supple as stone can be,
blue, not breathing, not taking in air or pushing it free again, but stilled, as a likeness.

One frame of the map, no, it takes two frames, then three of them, to contain the arm,
to try to hold the wrist and fingers in their soft and hungry motion, killing the illusion,

the fingers fall apart, dismember, fall off the faded parchment,
drop and fly and flutter away, and away,

putting time and space to sleep, unfolding, uncurling, opening into herself, alone,
the dance, the dancer, magnified by Degas, who dreamed of imperfect movement.

-- SK

 

 


At Pedernales

Later, in summer, we watched a meteor shower
out in the hill country, at Pedernales,
the kind of place you can go to look at the sky,
the kind of place where there are only two choices:
everything frosted white stone
and everything darkness.

Four girls lay back, three on the hood
of the car, another adorning its roof,
and were almost still.
One might turn her head to look
for deer in the trees, or might close her eyes,
and if the flash came

the others would, aah, whisper,
there’s one,
that’s a good one,
and the falling miracle
would have been missed again,
and then recognized.

-- SK

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