A weed-wacked lawn sprinkled with barbeque, baseball, and swimming pool,
a pond so deep my hair trailed down into water as cold as the Neva.
I saw what that river could see – Lenin, arm raised, palm turned up:
“Despair is typical of those incapable of struggle.”
My baleen lips had no bite. Better an albatross navigating over the sea,
half my brain shut down. I didn’t know
the Arctic latitudes trifled with light. Vladimir veiled in iridescence,
pink line across the horizon.
Hohenzollern. Hesse. Hemophilia.
When the mystic pulled the ruble from the Tsarevich’s ear, did Alexandra
understand the root meaning of amaze
is to confuse?
Not everyone wanted to dance with the Ballets Russes.
Anna Pavlova, wearing ice skates, spun like a water spout.
Extending her arms, she slowed her twirl,
and she could see the red sleighs,
their metal blades carving ice.
Molotov. Moscow. Malaysia Airline.
Bodies covered in cellophane, lying on their sides, legs bent and pulled-up waist high,
like the way I sleep every night. Now, the depth of water in which I swim,
floating on my back, chin up so the water covers my ears.
Arms stretched out. Eyes closed
to that wild watermelon sun.
Perhaps you could have stayed after the night of broken glass
when men shattered your windows, panes like the jaw
of a jaguar, fangs hanging from lintels, sticking up from sills.
Their shoulders bore the ink-stain of barbed wire spider webs.
They gave you one day to sweep away the splinters and decide.
Would you have stayed because the mist-soaked forest
was the only shelter your forefathers have ever known?
Under silent mahogany trees, your brood would flail their limbs
as if they were twigs in the brown river while the basilisks,
their feet webbed just enough, walked on water.
Your bloodline flows north with the humming birds through
coyote country to a place where your family will ride by bus,
pass Return-to-Sender signs to a corrugated steel settlement.
Tracking bracelets, thin and flexible like the ones butterflies wear,
will be fastened to your wrists.
One day in school your progeny will read that Anne and her parents
left their home after Kristallnacht and learn that kindness persists.
So if the north wind withers the honeysuckle,
and your children find a painted turtle, its back broken
along double yellow lines, still glass shards sparkle
in asphalt. You might say to your offspring,
There in the road – do you see them? Count the stars!
Green stems, couplets of leaves,
brown shells split open,
gashes of garnet
like an elephant’s mouth. Groans
of stretched bark,
through gray-brown striations.
Yet don’t trees seem to live
in a dream lapse of time?
Liquid sucked through their root-straws,
until their rococo greenery
red-shifts to yellow, then to sepia
when their sap freezes in place.
The ring cycle finished, one man
with an orange noose lassos limbs,
chops trunks, loads them
into a Vermeer wood chipper
that grinds through the patience
mauls the fibrous growth,
the elephantine god of wisdom.
A Day for Lot's Wife
In the city park, ashen fog rises from iron grates
and yellow maples shoot up
through squares dug out of concrete.
Business people come here
mostly to eat their Big Al’s pizza
or take a short cut to Broadway,
or just to sit
and stare at the arched windows.
Children huddle around a granite bench.
Boys poke a frog to jump,
stuff its mouth with firecrackers,
light the string, and with each pop
the girls run screaming, hands to their ears.
Your younger daughters run.
hot air closes in on you like a lid.
Your nostrils, the spaces between
your teeth fill with salt.
Etched in your hips’ hollows,
traces of your married
daughters left behind. You pray:
Scatter my body over my daughters’ bodies
so I may collect like a kiss
on the backs of their necks once more.
The sun drops an orange-yellow sheen
over the street, between
trees and benches, narrows
at the steps of what was once called
Liberty Park. A man holds a camera.
Another man holds a sign – You can’t evict an idea.
In Gentileschi’s painting of Lot and His Daughters,
voluptuous young women dressed in gold and red
lounge together. Your bronze bowl and silver pitcher
lie at their feet.
Lot buries his head.
His daughters look back
not in horror
but in concentration,
naming the brown clouds moving
across the vesper sky – dog, crab, pig.
Big Data Valentine
What I Mean When I Say Goat Rope