Angel and muse escape with violin and compass; the duende wounds. —Federico García Lorca I didn't expect to escape. I've stepped out of planes into Madrid and Bangkok, Prague and Seoul, each time a solo in a world that was, if not cruel, supremely indifferent to the fact of my breath. I loved where I could, did not imagine my mouth without light, fish at home in my bluest wells. I went in a stalk of pure wanting that knows there's no getting, and collected tiny lemons of joy when they ripened in reach of a window in Vence where I happened also on tangles of grapes fallen and trodden on the road to the sea. I plucked green stones from Spanish sand, wore the white hibiscus for a day behind my ear where it softened with rot in a pattern of etch. In Andalusia the wine is new and ruby, breath and aroma the tools of being in places where days are paid out like so many queens on obsolete coins. Now, not suddenly, but after long balance of what there is against what might or might never be, the never-was has dared to love me back. So it was death all along who stood in the ferry with his dirty blonde hair and bright nylon pack, but I never imagined he'd be so young as he slung the pack, leapt to the shore and never looked back for me. That's why my flesh loves me today. There are salt and heat and a body of bread, new if not endless, and a rumor if not news of the future. It dies as it lived, the idea of duende, a proximity, a song we don't necessarily need in a land of snow and icy green lakes where the weather's a tomb and the lover's strong thigh is white and marvelous as marble, a throne on which I suppose I could sit and grow handsomely old.
Leslie Adrienne Miller
Photograph of People Dancing in France
It's true that you don't know them--nor do I know what I wanted their movement to say when I tucked them in an envelope with words for you. I thought it was my life caught in a warm night. I believed myself loved by the wan and delicate man you see dancing against the drop-off behind them all. But you can't see that they are on a mountain, that just beyond the railings is a ravine, abrupt and studded with thorn, beyond it, a river, dry bed of stone that, by the time you take the photo from the envelope, will have filled with green foam of cold torrents from high in the Alps. This is France, you think, as you look at the people dancing, but there is nothing of France visible save one branch of a tree close enough to catch in their hair. I could tell you that by the time you see this picture, the young girl with the long jaw launching her bared navel at the lens will have bedded the man you're afraid of losing me to. There is food on the table, French food, and so more beautiful for that, green olives in brine, a local cake in paper lace, sliced tomatoes that look in the flash like flesh with their red spill of curve and seed. I could tell you they grew not twenty meters from the table where you see them, that I picked them one day with the small woman who bares her breasts in this photo because she is about to leave us and doesn't know any other way to say she is sad. They're alive is all you'll say of the scene, which is to say you feel you're not. It is November by the time I've thought to send you the photo, by the time I feel myself ready to part with the image. By then, the woman of the manifest breasts has left us, and the one with the dark eyes who loved her has darker eyes. Very soon after this dancing stopped, the man with the hollow cheeks took the girl of the ripe navel to his bed because he, like you, is so afraid of dying, he invites it daily, to try him. The girl's last lover was a boy on heroin in Cairo with the possible end of them both asleep in his blood, and now too in the blood of the lover I wanted to save. Because you are married to a woman who insists on wearing her dead sister's clothes, you understand that while I am not in this picture, I am in this picture. Know that I need never see it again to see: the incessant knot of the girl's navel is a fist, an oily wad of sweet-sour girl flesh, a ball of tissue I twisted and crushed all of that evening, and since. You refuse to remember her name, or his, because you want to be my lover again, and the others must be kept abstract. They were alive you say again, not more, because the heart is nothing if not a grave. You want me because your wife holds out her familiar wrist to you in the terrible sleeve of her dead sister's dress, because I reach for the gaunt cheek of the man who worships at the luminous inch of belly on the girl who lifts her arms from the body of a boy none of us will ever know in Cairo, the girl, who dead center in the photo, lifts the potent, mocking extravagance of her flash-drenched arms, and dances for us all.