Dangerous Things This is the island. It is small and vulnerable, it is a woman, calling. You love her until you are a part of her and then, just like that you make her less than she was before—the space that you take up is a space where she cannot exist It is something in her history that does this Don’t mind her name The island is a woman Therefore, dangerous things live below Beautiful things, also—which can be the most dangerous. True, we will never be beyond our histories. And so I am the island. And so this is a warning.
Refugee The brother I do not have is walking into the forest. I follow. Watch his half-hitch gait, the slipknot of his shoulders. Always, at the path’s end, a woman, not our mother, waits. Between us a matchstick and the damp tinder. Always this brother wastes the afternoon foraging, slipping his long fingers along the rough of fallen trees. Do you remember the song our mother sang? he says. He pockets frills of lichen, drops wet bark into my hand. Felled. There is something else. I unremember. When it gets dark, he tells me I loved best the song’s refrain. And later, the woman, not our mother, empties his pockets. There is never enough. Never to feed all the children. Careless Love I am chaise-longued and slipcovered. Lacquered, distracted, give me my grosgrain, my trim. Oh, to be scalloped, braided, blue silk valance and a tassled drape. A sash tied back, a faux anything thrown. Wall to wall, Persianed, hardly. Needle-pointed or shagged, what do you dream? I am fancy and apricot, Chinoisery and something stark. Phillipe–ghost chaired, illumined– –are you ready for my modernity? I can Louis it up, quatorze or otherwise, our excess, excessive, pounded, gold leafingly handled. Queerly we love a sofa, but enough sectional, what about feet stretched on an ottoman? There’s molding to consider. Eggshell? Gloss? Nothing overhead. How dire is the chandelier? And oh, you look lovely. The effect in certain light. Love me, oh, love me. I’ve been consigned. From The Dye Merchant The Apprentice of Blue …throw out the water and keep the blue. From Libri Colorum , 15th century (Delemare &Guineau) The last of the alum. The last of woad and logwood. Dutch smalt. Such blue. Like every band of ocean all at once. Minded the smell of hands but, oh, the blue of my own hands, stained, stinker hands, the dyer’s mark. Woke up blue. Hands bluer than paper. It’s almost my second winter at the papermill. Hauled my share of cow blood added as forbidden filler Metal in the steam rises from copper vats, I beat the rags harder with the beating stick. Time enough in long hours, the awful retting of pulp, to walk my crooked self back through the door of memory Turned out I’d been traded, a final coin in some deal, A man’s chunk of Persian Blue. Not much to remember. I no longer look like anyone’s daughter. It isn’t bad to be a boy, a cap angled on my head. I’ve shaped my mind to the business of keeping fingers from lifting a thing too lightly. I’d lived for two years in Venice, if this swamp can be called Venice. No ostrich plumes out here, no cabuchon of lapis-lazuli veined with gold. Among these slapped-up strung buildings it’s glass blowers and paper mills; the wool shop next door, a burned tatter of a building. In the sticky heat of the swamp, in the boil of the works, ten fired cauldrons, the men strip down, cloth wrapped for bloomers. I wear my pants short, keep them knotted about my waist. I sleep in a reeking shack. Slip out mornings While the others twist closer to their dreams Though it’s begun,…
Before I stopped going out, the waitress at the café
on my fine teeth. I read a book on the uses
and misuses of opium, waiting for my food. A tree
shed in the corner. “William Barret, a surgeon