Osseous, aqueous, cardiac, hepatic— back from bone the echoes stroke, back from the halved heart, the lungs three years of weightlessness have cinched to gills. From a leather chaise, the astronaut’s withered legs dangle, as back they come, sounds a beaked percussion hammer startles into shape. The physician cocks his head and taps—exactly as a splitter halves his slate, the metamorphic rock chisel-shocked, then shocked again, halved and halved, until a roof appears, black as space. I’m gaining ground, he says, the astronaut, who knows, from space, earth is just a blue-green glow, a pilot light he circled once, lifted, swiftly flown above the rafters and atmospheres, half himself and half again some metamorphic click, extinct as memory. I’m gaining ground, he says, and back it comes, his glint of cloud-crossed world: a pilot light or swaddled leaf, green in the season’s infancy.
". . . tomorrow I look forward to a greater harvest." —Charles Darwin, 1832 Month after dry month, then suddenly a brief rain has delivered to the fractured hillsides a haze of grass. So sparse it might be a figment of the heart. Yet its path on the outstretched hand is true—brush and retreat— like the breaths of a spaniel. There are buried in the decks of certain ships melon-sized prisms of glass, dangling their apices to the cabins below. Through their forked, pyramidic ziggings, daylight is offered to the mess tables, to the tinware, the gun-gray curlings of salt-tongue. Not rainbowed at all, the light approaches the face of each sailor in segments, like the light in a spine of train car windows. Then fuses, of course, when it marries the retina, its chopped evolution lost in the stasis of the visible. We turn homeward soon. I remember the seam lines of southern constellations, and the twin tornadoes of a waterspout: one funnel of wind reaching down from a cloud, one funnel of sea reaching upward. They met with the waist of an hourglass—in perfect reflection, as we, through the Archer, the Scorpion, the Painter, call forth from the evening some celestial repetition of our shared churnings. We shattered the spout with shotguns that kicked like the guns of my childhood when leaves were a prune-mulch and my sisters stood at the rim of the orchard. Katty. Caroline. Susan. Marianne. In the temperate wind, their dresses and sashes, the variegated strands of their hair, were the nothing of wood smoke. Steam. I cannot foretell our conclusion. But once, through a pleat-work of waves, I watched as a cormorant caught and released a single fish. Eight times. Trapped and released. Diving into an absence, the fish re-entered my vision in segments, arcing through the pivot of the bird's beak. Magnificent, I thought, each singular visit, each chattering half-step from the sea.