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Manoa 12.2 (2000) 162-164

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from "The Lightning Field"

Carol Moldaw


a patch of virga/a verse paragraph
slant marks/slashing the sky/silvered in a shaft
of sunlight/pellucid virgules marking time
and pitch in a run of silent recitativo
no skittering drops/no rivulets of rhyme
shearing off the windshield/dripping from eaves
from leaves/self-contained/this sheet of rain
evaporates/is throttled/bottlenecked
in the sky's throat/never nears/never
grazes/never wets/the tantalized ground
virginal downpour/suspended mid-fall
coitus interruptus/a phone call/a second
thought/a punctured tire/a pummeled breast
the milk/won't come/the seed/won't plant/the womb
nulliparous/swells anyhow/the rain
falls/and does not fall/stalled/the drops
make no discernible sound/a sob/a soughing
at the wheel/to our right/never overhead
never in reach/always down the road
an etching/scraped/scraped out/scarring the sky
a series of caesuras/a fractured field
a field of splintered bones/of lines broken
into spits smaller than feet/smaller than
a fetus/embryonic/the arrested rain [End Page 162]


At the center of the world, a seismic hole
cut out of a jade disk inscribed with signs
delicate as a sandpiper's tracks at low tide;
a wrought-iron bed in a bare room, a star
of Zion patchwork quilt; your hands, my hips;
falling asleep still joined; every trap
sprung free. Smegma, at the umbilicus,
and bitter ululations for the dead,
love's untranslatable glossolalia
welling up in my throat, tonguing my ear.
Is it a faulty o-ring causes leakage
between worlds, the mystic's watery eye,
the desert altar's perennially trickling spring?
No amount of celestial calculations
can explain that bolt from the blue, that pure
engine of divine kindness that brought us
face to face. At the center of the world,
two molted eagle feathers: one that stands
in a bud vase filled with salt; one held up
by a screw eye. Looking across the room
as caravans of clouds, slow wagon trains,
lumber across the window's quartered plains,
I want to rouse you out of your light sleep,
let you demonstrate, as the clouds drift,
how thoroughly you penetrate my world. [End Page 163]


Remember the row of lux perpetua candles
lining your bedroom's brick-propped plywood shelf,
each votive wrapped in waxy red-striped paper
stamped with the Virgin's upturned suffering face?
And how, hidden behind the left-hand speaker,
you had a box--no, a carton of condoms?
Looking knee to knee at Vermeer's Lacemaker,
you showed me how you saw in the loose strands
that overflow the velvet sewing box
an image of the imagination's bounty.
I said that I saw thread, a pair of hands,
a girl's head bent down in taxing concentration,
her own handworked collar framing her face.
I remember you walking backwards into your room,
drawing me with you, toward you, by both hands,
the bundle of fifty yarrow stalks I'd brought
still splayed out on the front-room's floor, one stalk
still set apart to stand for the Infinite,
"beginningless beginning and endless end,"
according to the xeroxed instruction sheet.
Not then, not yet, not that first night, but later,
now, I see how liminal and charged
we were in the laced and spiky candlelight,
bending to meet the mattress on the floor,
to meet like changing lines in a full embrace--

Carol Moldaw is the author of three books of poetry: Chalkmarks on Stone, Pencereden (Through the Window), and Taken from the River. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Agni, Field, and Paris Review.