- Hunted, and: At the Peak, and: Red Tulips in Red Jug, Haarlem, and: Crow’s Funeral, and: My Son’s Abs, and: Panic Attack
Imagine being hunted—poached, illegally,knowing how much someone desires you,wants your body, will never stop stalking youwith whatever weapons he devises.Camouflaged, utterly silent, relentless,a hunter who would burn the very tusks he seeks,would flay the hide that makes the quarry valuable.And you know you’re being hunted—every week, you come upon new corpses,not only the weak and old among youbut also the most determined, the fiercestof your kind, caught up in a net they’d never seen.Eventually, you will leave the tribe,decimated as it is, always mourning and fearful.You will walk to a lake, or a field,someplace you find peaceful and beautiful,and simply lie down there,putting aside any of your last defenses.You’ll wait for him to find you,knowing there is no escape anyway,hoping to get a bullet to the headbefore he removes the knives from his sack,with which he will extract the organsfrom your body, one by one. [End Page 9]
At the Peak
In Brienz, I took a steam engineso far up a mountain I passed cloudsand the shy goats that live too farup the gouged granite to tame.Once out of the train, the thin airkept my lungs from climbing higher.Alpine ranges hammocked melike folds of silk on a saint’s lap.The mountains shrank me to rock jasmine,lavender petals creeping in the cliffs.A friend once told me, “Women are strongerthan a firing squad.” I stood by the railknowing the bullets have left the chambers. [End Page 10]
Red Tulips in Red Jug, Haarlem
Painting by Winifred Nicholson
One day, red wracked me,ripped me open seam to seam,and overcame me, said:Girl—crash, knock over, spill.Give name to. Be merciless.At first, I held out against it,wanting only the calm sky,immersion, Vermeer’s robe.But red thrust its iron brushin my hand so my wordswould rush, reveal, heal,the way a blood transfusiononce made me feel wingedand hot, holding out for glorymy wondrous wounds. [End Page 11]
Crows have been observed gathering around the bodies of dead crows, sounding calls of panic.
When I die, throw me a crow’s funeral.No eulogy, no poems or psalms.Leave behind the candles and hymns,the hypnotic chants at vespers,the bound and hammered hands of Christ.Let the company assemble outside,bareheaded beneath the sky,weeds and dirt the only altar cloths,the dying oak, still rooted in the soil,casting a chuppah for the Shekinah.Cluster, beloveds, around my urn.Then, in turn, mimic the outragedcries of crows, their shrieks for the dead.Scream until alarmed birds rise,bowing a black shroud, a rent,a tent to accept my soul. [End Page 12]
My Son’s Abs
At fourteen, his voice and waistband drop.He’s stopped smiling for photos,and I’m no longer welcome to rifle his hair.Tonight, he asks me to punch his abs.The boy still calls me mama when he’s sad,but he’s crunching his core.Because I won’t hit him, even in sport,he balls up my fist in hisand twists my arm toward him.His muscles are new, unfamiliaron the child who so recently climbedinto bed with me after a nightmare.Now I’ve changed his curtainsfrom Day-Glo yellow to solid blue.I don’t have the common sense to let him grow.And after the abs, what comes next?A razor, license, sorrows he won’t share?I ask him where he’s going. He shrugsand wrings the boyhood from his skin. [End Page 13]
My mind begins to rhyme.Gift remiss thrift bliss—I can’t stop the wordsfrom stuttering themselves.Tunnel, kennel, funnel, runnel.My mind’s unpinned.There’s a spinning in my brain.A whirl in my...