they call the river goddess whore
deflower bayonet stillbirth fertile
she gathers wind in her skirts
escaping ascension opens a world
they peruse local obituaries
foreign concepts natural causes
she gathers collateral damage
headlines prophecy cycles of birth
[objet díart: exhibition of beauty in art loft victorian claw tub]
he found her, guttered, fish-hook positioned. palsied arms squeezing mottled
fishtail he thought almost fetal. febrile she felt his face eclipsed sun his halo
at best. joyless, cradled old faerie tale, this half-dead thing little foundling.
but city rain guttersí unspeakable odors, her hair matted nest of gems and
dying creatures. he wrapped her in newspaper he brought her home traced
spider veinsí routes where needles went in islands of abscess where flesh
refused to mend itself. he suspected she had no navel. he put his hand there
to find what else she lacked.
she has no memory now, the order in which events transpired: deposit
specimen laid porcelain bed iodine smarting contusions expensive soles
clicking waxed hardwood renovated rocksalt bathwater proportions tested
flashbulb popping ceaseless yellow afterimage sandalwood combs fighting
ebony tangles exquisite centerpiece erupting stomachís detoxification
applause and eyes always eyes offset against vaulted ceilings she does not
[diwata taga ilog at dagat]
regarding the turbulent south seas, the sultan stages elaborate ceremony.
as if one man could wed a goddess, part woman, part ocean.
elders say when she walked on earth, her skinís sores and scales a jealous
womanís curse upon her, a maiden who escaped betrothal to a wicked deity.
a rice farmerís daughter who found death before her time, she found river
elders say she loves moonstone, polished jade. elders say her penchant for
mischief, elders say she preys.
elders say when ships, when the nailed god came, his hairy men christened
her demon. they forbade her offerings. they erected bamboo fences in the
shallows. still the elders whisper, sometimes sing.
when undertow captures foolish boy,
lotus flower petals in monsoon.
when she finds he is not to her liking,
lotus flower feast for typhoon.
she wonders why the sea behaves
so strangely; today, its stillness
unnerves her. she knows that itís
unusual for the tide to dip so low,
exposing seabedís skeletons,
ships whose hulls once bellowed
whalesong, lost souls.
today, boys hop out of outrigger
canoes to gather shells and fish;
flopping in ancient mud, they fill
their rattan vessels. tonight, oceanside
fires will burn and crackle, and she
will divine still airís smoke curls.
something is amiss.
[on viewing subjective catastrophe]
what i can see: an archangelís wings. birdsong. a melting popsicle. a game of
hopscotch. a robinís breast. a blood orange. an aurora framed in sunset.
this one tiny cornerís rose petals to ease my eyes.
(he asks me to translate.) (the tongue of an angry man.) (he tells me, i donít
know how i feel about this.) (any of this?) (i want to grab his shoulders and
shake.) (jesus, feel something.) (he walks away.) (he canít hear me.) (he
do you know what it is to witness an unraveling? it is being at the right place
at the wrong time, or being at the wrong place at the right time. both may
wanna peek into my notebook? there may be clues hidden in it: instructions
for viewing subjective catastrophe. rules of derivation. donít gasp. donít
choke. up. look up. cradle your neck from holding the gaze.
keep your eyes to the sky and think of heaven.
Next - Teresa Ballard
Current Issue - Winter 2006