Slanting light casts onto a stucco wall the shadows of upwardly zigzagging plum branches. I can see the thinning of branches to the very twig. I have to sift what you say, what she thinks, what he believes is genetic strength, what they agree is inevitable. I have to sift this quirky and lashing stillness of form to see myself, even as I see laid out on a table for Death an assortment of pomegranates and gourds. And what if Death eats a few pomegranate seeds? Does it insure a few years of pungent spring? I see one gourd, yellow from midsection to top and zucchini-green lower down, but already the big orange gourd is gnawed black. I have no idea why the one survives the killing nights. I have to sift what you said, what I felt, what you hoped, what I knew. I have to sift death as the stark light sifts the branches of the plum.
Faucets drip, and the night plunges to minus
fifteen degrees. Today you stared at a map
of Africa on a school wall and shook your head
at “Yugoslavia” written along the Adriatic
coast near the top—how many times
are lines drawn and redrawn, and to what end?
This ebony bead yours, that amber one
another's. A coelacanth swims in the depths
off Mozambique and eludes a net; a crystal
layer forms behind your retinas. Today
you saw the long plastic sheet in the furrow
blown, like a shroud, around elm branches.
A V-shaped aquatic grass cutter leans
against the porch, and you ponder how things
get to where they are. A young writer
from Milwaukee who yearned to travel calls—
he’s hiked the Himalayas and frets
at what to do: in Nepal, during civil strife,
he and an Israeli backpacker smoked
and yakked all night in the emptied hotel;
now that the snow is dissolving off Everest,
bodies of climbers and trash are exposed.
A glowing eel in the darkness—anguish.
He clacks the beads, how to live, where to go.