Shall I Read from the History of the Battle of Thermopylae?
Now that there is nothing left, for instance,
the taste of fear dries the upper lip.
Wood-doves rustle coppery wings along city
gates. What I want is to not want,
not you, not the scent of mango, not the livid
faces of fashion models, their necks
arching perversely upward.
Not a single moment.
The cigarette smoke’s shapes auger thirty
mornings of fraught
silences, cold tea, that flickering anger
talk shows and an empty table set for three: for you,
for me, for the polite ghost of intensest
A quince no one will eat rolls
behind a stove cold
to the touch.
When things go bad, it gets like this.
Where’s the gift of sudden continuity?
Dare say no
into an open well or we’ll all drown of
The field of middle distance is dry.
all around, pointing a given direction.
Sing out the measure
of a narrow pass. I’ve been lost here
before. With thumb and forefinger, blot out
Pilgrim. So as not
to turn my back, trembling, shine towards
the unspeakably insistent.
With the lights
out, it’s not so far. In the movies, it’s called
day for night and I will open
my eyes to a shadow cut in the shape of your mouth.
In the pattern of ten stars and three thousand
times three thousand
pearly eyes of gutted mackerel,
the map home is a logic of longitude and shame.
What if you were a Persian king, ashes covering
your forehead, your eyelashes, your scarred
right cheek, how would you arrive
across a trail of broken
leaves, mercury poisonings, the ocean’s
systemic threat and verdict? Would you
take the shore
born aloft on a dozen strong backs?
And when articles of faith fashion
a loosened garment
the disheveled will not return.
In the days before now, before this one stretched
so wide round us,
I wanted a direct address,
in something else I wanted to say and
I do not know how to ask for fresh water,
for a ripened date, for three
On the last night of the sordid republic,
a soldier’s wife
waves goodbye as
the right nipple thickens in the
itself against her blue t-shirt.
A bright proximity is a wrong kind of silence.
In this garden of unregenerate narrative,
see words but think:
arrows darkening the sky
for the unseen
for every comma reckon the ways
hope can pierce the sternum
in half. A rose leans near
the open window and thrushes play
The world thus put under
by verb and noun.
A husband runs headlong towards the river while
over his shoulder the cottage window
brackets the wife’s face in an attic room. Drapes
stir, then she’s gone as each promise
he does not keep
past the walls,
along the paths
to the sea, there where
children and old widows
heap up driftwood and dried seaweed
and this is, so please it, where I am loved.
There are such Spartas.
—for Patricia Willis
In Rashomon the rain
does not sleep, sounds
like ink-darkened pages, turning, then
In the unrecognizably literal forest
likeness is like falling,
It is human nature to fall
into the middle of things.
What matters is that in this tale someone’s dead,
tied to a post and things unsaid.
Some arctic continent of unspeakable
names opens wide round.
Mifune conjures close a relentless ghost, deeper than you think,
and who’ll speak for it?—That’s where you come in.
Remember me remember
what is here
what is white what is true
what is heat.
As you turn to go,
the weave of threadbare scrolls goes slack—
the day becomes a draft of distances
no one can bear.
Still, it moves:
Look/tell, look/tell, look/tell.
In the coming dark, everyone left until the room spun
against its own
unblinking. Not even the story
owns its own
And, later, who would not wish
in the want-nothing light
to wear a face
the rain in Rashomon.