Ange Mlinko

Hurricane: Hera | Squall: Echo
April 13, 2012 Mlinko Ange

Hurricane: Hera


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

vanished completely

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

though pain

could be born of paint.



Squall: Echo


Now, what if Echo came to their shores—somewhere near Westport or

New Rochelle,

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

hosanna-ing thalassas

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.”

Ange Mlinko is the author of Starred Wire and Shoulder Season and now lives in Beirut. She writes a regular column on language for The Nation, and in 2009 she received the Randall Jarrell Award for Criticism from the Poetry Foundation. Her poems have appeared in The Nation, New Yorker, London Review of Books, Poetry, and elsewhere.