A thinnest sliver of moon, and caterpillars
gather in their bodies
with the wiry, circular precision
of a rice-paper lantern
folding back down on itself, colored
patterns collapsing into
denser, indecipherable forms. Rabbits
leave lacy teethmarks
rimming the ragged edges of lettuce,
and I am like the opossum
who stares up with glowing, hungry eyes
waiting for persimmons to fall.
All night tree frogs throb and thrum
with the numbing pulse
of a discotheque, and fat, lacquer-backed
cockroaches creep in shiny
bumper-to-bumper lines toward the promise
of food, drawing a zigzag
connect-a-dot from garbage can to can,
hub to hub, the way your flight
now circles another city, talons outstretched,
like a blinking, red-eyed
bird, while the damp of your sweat fades
from my pillowcase.
Because I let your hands undo me
like an origami crane,
fold by fold, fingers easing out creases,
because I let the ink
of your brushstrokes seep the whiteness
of my paper-thin skin
and mark me, I could call this love,
or maybe delusion.
And when I creep barefoot in moonlight
with my hair undone,
reach into the sky to pull you back down,
there is nothing
but heat, and sound, and dizziness,
only a handful
of peony petals crumpling in my fists.
Copyright 1999 by Lee Ann Roripaugh. From Beyond Heart Mountain, Viking Penguin, 1999.