Much like the pomegranate
you contain multitudes.
You laugh in morsels and
to love you is pyrrhic,
for in your hands is panacea
concinnated like pearls on a line.
You’re worth this night and each night —
with straight teeth
you tear apart the pulp of things.
A woman inheriting death
deserves first to taste life.
What could we do
that blue maiden night
when the stars arrived
but offer utterly ourselves:
pale, mortal, dancing?
This painting, entitled “Luminous Darkness” by Beth Tockey Williams, is part of our collection of paired poems and paintings from the Dry Tortugas National Park.
Not even the Earth
has quite so many rooms.
I imagine holding it
firmly in hand
would do damage,
which is perhaps why
few could venture to rip it
from the sky, say,
or drop it whole into
even the softest palm.
His is a solar wind,
your heart the plum:
the blue dot shivering,
and all along it’s known
itself as just another
in the spinning void.
Is it magic, then,
to be held lightly,
freed from darkness,
and flood forever
those rooms with light?
Dedicated to Hannah Williams, on her wedding day 02/08/2020
I pull from tangled
pale claws nearly dust
to stash in my breast pocket.
Clittering china, I picture
a family of crab ghosts converging
over my pulse, ready to tuck
into their first bloody meal after death;
eye stalks sway in synchrony
raised in prayer to Sea, or
perhaps his brother, Sky.
mingling in my pocket,
I scoop out my heart
and permit you to feast.
Photo credit: Beth Tockey Williams
The sea grape’s
many ears are broad
and mirthful wax cups,
red veins steeped
of each skim and sweep
of the young swallow:
his scoop of tail,
on dark wing.
No wonder she raises
her round ears
to the storm. No wonder
she lets them flutter
and fold, and perhaps
one day tear free.
Then thunder comes
on shoulders of rain.
The roar you think
will taper off
so you stop to hear her out;
on she shakes, & on.
Her bellow beats bereft
the balding palm, prickle pears
wag paddles in her face.
You hear her grief-ripples
from the thick-aired house,
windows agape, sills –
tongues for puddling.
She sobs through lunch
of jasmine rice &
coconut milk, sobs
through day marking papers
in blue-black strokes.
Even unto sleep, even once
rain has ceased, thunder
crawls down the dark hall
on her hands & knees.
(The soft pastel painting featured alongside this poem was created by my mother, Beth Tockey Williams. Stay tuned for more content like this, as together we are creating a book of poetry and pastel landscape paintings documenting our experience as the Artists in Residence at the Dry Tortugas National Park!)
You meet me at the bridge and ask me to discard my scales. Urgently: you say it’s time for me to join you above. It’s simple, you say, just pull them out like so many fingernails. You do not have them, so you do not know. You’ve given me no clippers so I must dig in and rip them out from the root.
It takes hours. You grow bored, you drowse beneath a tree nearby. My blood stains the swamp and it bubbles in my wounds. I’m cleansed by black water tannins. My sides and legs shredded and oozing, I roll onto the riverbank. You gather me up in the net of your arms.
You have a place for me in a nice suburban home. I’ll have a family: someone to look after me each day. There is awe and love in your eyes. I have hidden my gills; I hope that as I learn to breathe your air, they do not fall away.
I now allow myself to write
those velvet throats, those waves of female form,
without discrediting the work
as politic instead of rather than also poetic.
I touch a woman and learn long dead languages, taste her breath and tides pull me under,
where the ocean names my atoms
reminds me all I’d know
if the Earth herself were my politics.
The swamp is my reliquary, and deep within, death and life and death sing across the waters.
She too carries this candor, her body equally unnavigable without submission. I’ve learned this:
How could I see the naked world
and wish it clothed? How could I breathe good air filtered over light years, bequeathed to me by the stars I count beside my lover,
and wish to bottle it? Nothing, not poetry, not politics, will spare me if I cannot spare her.
(For Aaron R Williams)
Places I’ve been would melt you;
the barrenness of iced-over marshes,
the grassy dropping cliffs of Moher
where our mother buried that lock
of your soft blonde hair
and piled smooth rocks atop the shallow grave.
Where our sister cut a lock of her own
and let the wind carry it over the edge
toward the fog-swept Aran island.
People I’ve loved would melt you.
You might have shook their hands roughly,
let them feel the scar on your knuckle.
You’ve been gone now much too long,
we’ve searched strange landscapes for blue,
rare but for sadness and your eyes.
Why must every drop be saved for the sea?
Voices I’ve heard would melt you
into a strange raw fear of
phrases like butter that warm on your lips,
but you cannot speak another word cannot
break the filmy membrane
between the living and the dead.
Had your voice been carried over Irish farms
and rung in the caves of the south sea,
had they sung into our mother’s wind-chilled hands;
instead we had only your name,
whispered over the cliff edge to drift on the waves
until at last it sank with a grief so deep and dark
it put the sea to shame.
Mr. Angelou received nightly
a hot dinner, a kiss, and 7 hours worth
of writing to proof-read before bed
in the motel room of the week:
as thanks, perhaps, or simply
out of love.
Proof that out of love is better than in,
at least with uncaged birds.