Notes on an Illness in Spain
The sinuous ripple of a well-broken in fan, a soft hand
to fabric and bone. Eating tomatoes in the cheap seats.
Wine poured from the nipple of its bag into the mouth.
The mess, cheering from far below, the young bull harried,
then shamed, dragged off with a length of chain. My cheap
clothes stained with fever. A weeklong convalescence, watching
storks feed their young—clacking beaks, wide, articulated landings
shuttered smooth, a complicated sentence brought to balanced close.
Mothers disgorged fish from the slow, brown river, marinated
in stomach acid, churned in flight, to featherless jostlers, each
a knotted floss of pink and gray-blue, with its gaping needle,
forked and gulping, not yet skilled in stitching among the reeds.
Where had they come from?
Flemish roofs, rivers in Normandy, Swedish bogs? Legs trailing,
forgotten behind, with the plush of warm mud. Wings their All.
Friends simply those traveling toward the same destination,
felt, not measured, urgency and arrival balancing within the level
of each hollowed bone, an itch of compass. And enemies?
All that which resisted the call within, the return: discordant limbs
fumbling desire, muffling what pierced, or a confusion of broken
wing, a storm that spun all sense of things off course, slow starvation.
My fever cools before the babies fledge.
One evening I walked out, disembodied with disuse, a suckling eye
greedy for the play and plumage of my own species—a grandmother
in black clapping for her granddaughter twisting flamenco bird,
each arm a neck, each hand with its black beak of clacking castanet.
She would be a mother now, mourning an empty nest, urgency
spent. And what of this ghost that eddies by her sway-backed stone
step? I am more swept than sweeping. This is not grief, but gratitude,
to say to the paths I once marked, you have marked me, urging this dust, gently, with almost maternal tenderness, to scatter on the wind and lift.
the grist of gratitude is like ingratitude
tailings, soldering marks. I dreamt of the Tesla factory
machines making machines, big-headed, many-armed nurses
tending the chassis’s cot. I feel a grinding less than I should
about the loss of what I did not love. Omission on omission
and then that lack is its form, the mold my time hardened into.
Wet November, black ice, sparrows flocking, planning their big
move, but never moving. Congregations of intention flight
the bushes around my bare yard. All this talk about hope, like hope.
Asphalt shingle, rotting sills, all that effort to keep the house upright.
Inside the rooms the delicate bags of water, chemicals, interlocking bones. Here a little girl’s breath sounds like water brushed. Her mother
moves cold cups and bowls from cupboard to countertop, head bent
over work so perpetual, she has forgotten to ask if it is work. I watch
what a machine might do better, what she does with her hands
and love what might only matter to the participants. My sister life.