Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Letters from Nineveh

When the tower fell I was there
in my oleander dress leaning
from that high window
rimmed with rose & jasmine
not having your body to lean against

Here in Nineveh death takes a long time
also love, that clean unveiling
& the unfanciful bounty, body's truth:
when the skies fell how could my broken
hands not be open

who sought you so long
against the shattered daylight

The days go by in Nineveh
& the sharp nights
Last week the sea birds flew
here by inland light &
I could taste again the salt
dried on your skin

Then it was always summer
we tried words
on innocent tongues: apple
peach, plum; bird in the wet grass
sleek hair, my new breasts
in your hands

To reconcile
death, lust, grief, love
takes such a long time
In these long dreams
I meet you, holding out a glass
empty or full, sweet, bitter

I can't guess where we are
to meet again; some white room
or garden, some pleasant hell
accustomed as my cards
cups & swords, king here, lost queen
lost summer skies

How was it so easy once?
Now at the boundary
I hold to what is left, the broken
light through these plum trees
the empty air, the unmade
bed, door open


Against the boundaries
of our broken lands
I look for you, still water

these long times
In the south gardens
the early fruit is gone

& the foxgrapes come
& quince, scenting
the bare rooms

& unripe persimmons
bitter lantern
in the open woods

My children hunt for earthstars
the white angels, & the good

which smell of your skin
Rain settles
its familiar touch

on these intimate
bends of river, crevices
of sandstone

With my hair blown
across my wet eyes
how will I know you, my life

walking these dark roads

(this one was also printed in Prairie Schooner, back in the day. I wrote a number of Nineveh poems, but this is my favorite)

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