Mirror of the Invisible World
Poetry is the mirror of what is visible, and what is invisible…
The crown of a milk tooth in a curve of jaw
looked like a ring held up on the pads
of three fingers. A dulled diamond. In the skull
from Peru, someone has written “PERU” on the yellow
bone –scoured in that little space near where the ear
would have been, lighter. Below the inked word is a tiny
circle with an arrow in it, pointing to PERU. Lower,
another circle with an arrow nearly erased,
as if what they’d been looking for had not been there.
His center top tooth is missing. Skulls often look
like they are gritting their teeth. I want to say, relax. It’s over.
The white butterflies keep showing up, fluttering their hellos.
When I was the man escaping, it was the worst. As in exile,
I had to live in a cave and could only come out into the world at night.
The second time I was a girl, I forgot the world was real,
and killed a man in white, already almost hung on a wall. I sunk
a knife through the middle of him. So then it was murder.
In my first exile as a girl, they’d sentenced me to thirty years,
what now, I thought. What now that I’ve murdered the man in white?
Others helped me escape – I stood with them in a ballroom,
undisguised – and I wondered if they had it right.
That by being visible I would be unseen.
Sometimes I choose a song with words and listen to it through
headphones, and the singing is almost like love, a phone call I don’t
have to answer. Sometimes I think if I sit here quietly in my green
chair in the sand, a body’s length from the water’s edge, if I stay
into the night the creatures of the sea
who swim in horizontal unison, squids and naked
see-through ones in shells will break the waves
like the shark this morning, swim toward me and come up the dark
sand with a message from the life below.
When I said song, I meant that little guitar
from the sixteenth century in an old room in Virginia,
I meant the ghosts in that room,
the way we encouraged them to stay.