Quantum Foam

The air is close by the sea and the glow from the pink moon
drapes low over a tamarind tree.

We hold hands, walk across a road rushing with traffic 
to an abandoned building site on the bay, look out across the dark marina.

Sea cows sleep by the side of a splintered dock, a cluster of them 
under the shallow water,

their wide backs covered in algae like mounds of bleached coral.

Every few minutes one floats up for air, 
then drifts back down to the bottom, 

without fully waking.  
They will do this for hours, and for a while we try to match 

our breath to theirs, and with each other’s.

In the morning, sitting in the garden beneath thatch palms, 
we drink black coffee from white ceramic cups.

Lizards killed by feral cats are scattered on the footpath.
I sweep them into a pile with the ones from the night before.   

Waves of heat rise from the asphalt, 
and we sense a transparent gray fuzz lightly covering everything 

as if there were no such thing as empty space, 
that even a jar void of substance holds emptiness as if it were full.

More by Elizabeth Jacobson

The Cows

Now that I have read this story about the cows  
I think of them at night when I cannot sleep, 
how they are so still in their grassy field,  
seemingly suspended like animations of themselves. 
Even though there are only 3, I count them over and over,  
envision them as if I were floating above their pasture, 
observe the different stances they choose:   
the 3 of them standing bottom to bottom, or 
head to head, 
sometimes in a row, one behind the other 
sometimes side by side. 
They stand where they want and nurse their calves. 
They lie down in their field when they feel like it. 
If the farmer wants to kill one, and it won’t get in the truck 
he gives up and lets it live. 
If the farmer wants to sell one, and it won’t get in the truck 
he gives up and lets it stay. 
I am glad I read this story by Lydia Davis. 
I like to think of how she stood in her window and watched these cows. 
I imagine how she may have moved from inside her house to outside her house, 
depending on the weather, to stand and watch these cows, 
month after month,  
and although the details of their days are rather plain 
she wrote a very essential story. 
Right before I fall asleep I think about how there are no cows where I live 
but there are mountains,  
and I watch them move in this same way. 
They open and close, depending on the weather 
and like these 3 cows, these mountains are a few of the things left 
that get to live exactly as they must. 

“All the time I pray to Buddha I keep on killing mosquitoes."

—Issa

Issa, I killed 8 gophers this fall, held 
each cold body in my open palm,  

stroking the river colored fur between their silent black eyes 
before dropping them into a plastic bag. 

Their little hands were cupped  
as if in death they cradled one last thing 

because nothing does not continually hold 
all of what remains, or all of what  

has been carried somewhere else.  
The tunnels these creatures dug in my yard,  

destroying even the hardiest plants, 
will soon be used by voles and rats,  

and other gophers,  
from other yards, that will be trapped and killed, by me. 

I met a man who hunts elk.   
He shot a large buck, and when he was beginning to dress it,  

just as he made the first cut with his blade through the buck’s neck,  
this man opened his mouth to yawn.   

The neck of the elk exploded, and the cervical fluid  
burst from its spine,  

infecting the man  
with a parasite that nearly killed him.   

Issa, I cannot absolve myself, 
cannot clear impurities from my body. 

You said, A bath when you’re born,  
a bath when you die, 

how stupid
How extraordinary. 

Blood Moon

echoes of a hate crime, remembering Matthew Shepard

People are made of paper, love affairs, 

             anything that tears easily. 

 A pregnant woman stands under the lunar eclipse,  

              carves a swirl into a tree, 

 her baby is born with this same mark on his thigh. 

 It’s just like the earth to come between the sun and the moon  

              and cause this kind of mystery. 

Point at a rainbow, and it will plummet and slice your finger off. 

Use your lips instead, to show others what you are looking at. 

Don’t stand on high rocks or they will push you into the sky, 

           and you will be pressed like a flower in a book. 

People are made from rain showers, hatred, smears of spit, 

             anything that might evaporate instantly. 

That night, the moon was a true blood red,  

not the pale rust of this moon, this morning. 

             An entire human body coated red with blood,  

                except where a path of tears washed through. 

Don’t stare at the moon  

          or it will follow you persistently like a stray cat you have fed. 

Don’t hold out your hands when the sun is shining,  

           or you will burn continually with possibility. 

People are made of buckets of sand, sequins of clay, desire,  

           anything that washes away easily. 

Don’t inhale too deeply, the scent of fallen leaves  

pasted to the forest floor after a fresh rain, 

            or you will be repeatedly stepped on. 

Don’t count the seeds in a mound of bear scat  

            or just as many clouds will split open above your head. 

Related Poems

The Last Kingdom

Three days before the hurricane
a woman in white is hauling milk.

The beach wails.
She is swinging her pail.

I am sleeping in a tent of car parts, quilts
when the woman passes through the heavy felt door.

If your dream were to wash over the village, she says.
We listen—seagulls resisting the shore.

Hermit crabs scuttle under tin.
The children hitch their sails in.

Later that night from the compound walls
I see her hitchhiking the stars’ tar road—

black dress, black boots, black bonnet,
a moon-faced baby in a basket.

*

                    Thus, alone, I have conceived.

A tent dweller moved to the earth’s edge,
I bathe in acidic waves.

Everyone in the village
watches at the cliff the tidal wave
breach, roll across the sky.

They are feasting on cold
fried chicken, champagne—
I have no dancing dress for the picnic.

The king dozes in his gravelly castle.
The band plays its tired refrain.

Men, drunk on loosened wind
raise their cups to mechanical dolphins
tearing through the sheet-metal sea.

In the shadow of petrels’
snowy specters, drifting monuments
crash and calve.

But I, as water under wind does,
I tear my hair,
scalp the sand—

the sun, eclipsed by dark contractions
turns its disc to night—

fish like bright coins
flip from my hand.

*

                    Waking, I find I am alone in the kingdom.

The moon lays upon me
its phosphorescent veil.

The floating world—luciferous:
bleached coral coliseum,
a mermaid’s molten gown—

she turns her widening wheels,
spills her pail of glacial milk.

I could almost swim forever
to her beat of frozen bells.

But a sheet of water
doesn’t travel with the wave.

And the morning like a tender body
slides out of silt:

I press against its damp
rough surface, an ear.

Daedalus, After Icarus

Boys begin to gather around the man like seagulls.
He ignores them entirely, but they follow him
from one end of the beach to the other.
Their footprints burn holes in the sand.
It’s quite a sight, a strange parade:
a man with a pair of wings strapped to his arms
followed by a flock of rowdy boys.
Some squawk and flap their bony limbs.
Others try to leap now and then, stumbling
as the sand tugs at their feet. One boy pretends to fly
in a circle around the man, cawing in his face.

We don’t know his name or why he walks
along our beach, talking to the wind.
To say nothing of those wings. A woman yells
to her son, Ask him if he’ll make me a pair.
Maybe I’ll finally leave your father.
He answers our cackles with a sudden stop,
turns, and runs toward the water.
The children jump into the waves after him.
Over the sound of their thrashes and giggles,
we hear a boy say, We don’t want wings.
We want to be fish now.

Radial Scent

My body tauter, poised to carry.
When I pitch forward
I tumble inside.
 
Each time I try,
an algal bloom
replaces language’s surface.
 
Ruby-red & unmoored,
waves over laminate surfaces…
Everything alive aching
for more aliveness.
 
I love the world,
push it away reflexively.
Make songs like
negated charges on a circuit.
Syntax arches towards
the back of
a neck. Inside emotion:
a corralling of emotion.
 
Love in the larval stage:
terror of surrender.
Unraveling, a path.
 
Words were not made for us.
They are above, we submit.
 
We are like the rock beneath
the water,
 
even if we created the water.