You never hear of Ixion, tied to a revolving wheel,
but it’s an axiom that sooner or later, a hurricane’ll hit here.
The art students made a map of the one-hundred-year flood plain
superimposed on the five-hundred-year flood plain
and you were supposed to stick a thumbtack on the street where you
were living in the prequel, shaded a blue so appealing
it seemed as though we might have taken nutriment from it, with some
organ we have lost.
The art students were making their installation serve a religious
by offering an opportunity for communal expression.
Should we choose to participate, the result would belong to all of us.
The ironclad customs that once proclaimed the common good are
but in the sanctuary city, just as in ancient times, people ask the gods a
question in prayer and sleep on it.
When Ixion raped a Hera-shaped cloud, it produced the father of a new
race, the centaurs, whose specialty was medicine.
The Medical Center is like a palace complex.
The live oaks knit their limbs in prayerlike attitudes that mimic,
altogether, the vault of a cathedral.
I would ask the art students what kind of knowledge it would take to be
able to paint a tortured body—
Christ in his passion, Ixion on his wheel. I can see them recoil.
Some kinds of knowledge are hateful, as the nuclear scientist,
assassinated, will tell you,
or a Dutch gentlewoman who is so traumatized
when her husband buys an uncanny Ixion by the portraitist Ribera,
that she gives birth to a child whose hand is withered and twisted—as
could be born of paint.
Now, what if Echo came to their shores—somewhere near Westport or
and made herself a paperweight on one of those overwrought wicker
the wind could pulp to papyrus starter—
and holding a stem of chardonnay, eavesdropped on party chatter by
the mod wok
before wandering on in search of her old suitor?
What we need is a suitor perpetually new, the wives agreed (their
imported spreads, their filigreed eyelids).
What we need are marvelous things, they said, but Echo could not say
what she had seen.
Sitting among their pale accessories, all in harmony with white ceramic
eggshell balcony railings, green-grape sunlight spilling on the
metallurgical sound of the waves—more like staves—
and so collapsing every riff into one note.
The sand was all one color, oat, and the grasses kept rebearding where
massacred oysters to pure nacre.
I have seen some things, she opened her mouth to say (this could have
been anywhere: Tyre, Florida; Essouaira, California; Texel,
I have seen some marvelous things, akin to shine on a child’s straight
hair or brushed titanium
of the early adopter’s new trophy.
These things, against what they obsolesce
do not make us feel less less,
they implied, giving Echo a severe look.
Echo wound a tress around her finger; they had all looked up at comets
through telescopes and at the ceiling of Grand Central, when it
came down to it;
had seen Shakespeare in the Park, with actors previously seen onscreen;
traveled, raveled, veiled and led on donkeys through casbahs.
They were like poems conceived, typical poems, near the metronome;
they preferred common complaints.
Good riddance to the husband who put the steak knives point-up like
myrmidons in the dishwasher.
And if in their coops in Westport, or New Rochelle, or wherever, they
resembled, a little, pigeons—”Djinns,”
Echo flattered them, making them feel less less, but somehow not all
that appreciated for it,
as when she had whispered to Narcissus “Us!” rather than, as he would
have it, “Scissor us.”