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From Mermaid’s Purse
It was never mentioned why the princess was placed upon the top of the

glass mountain, or how she might descend. The red mouth of the river 

gone astray, hair torn asunder; she walks across the heavens slowly, 

leaving us for the noon. A simple sweep or curve of concentration. At

each portal, an ornament was removed, her robes and garments, a girdle

of birthstones. The taught tide across dark eyes, as if rhythm were flowers

in their motionless sound. It was she who played upon the zither. Plucked

with a plectrum. She carried a spyglass, tossed by waves. A rope

of seaweed around her waist.

Girls wrapped in towel gowns stood on the shore. Threads of destiny

were said to be visible, fastening a wrist to an image. These tasks which I

set aside cannot remain undone. Where do shoulders bare their own

inferences? They are upon me as minstrels draw the blinds of heavy eyes,

as trepidation draws a cord around a neck or an arm ties a sash. And that

trembling room into which you wake has also a curtained side. I cannot

describe why it is that the task never ends, but only that it is beyond the

discipline of movement or breath in the sense that it bids me. There is no

date to speak of. No appointments are willing to venture. 

Again I ask the oracle in order to be reminded of my simple coordinates.

If I stand in this underlined doorway, there is a place where my feet press

into wood, and yet this cannot name the figure, or by what rule it may

move. In the manner of a cloudburst influence may wane. A lake has risen

not to rest upon virtue. Nine in the second place means arms at evening

and at night. Molting, the pelt of an animal. The younger daughter is

above. Set the calendar in order and make the seasons clear. The bone I

leave isn’t left.

The silence was longitudinal, the way water has no color but reflects. The

way a nameless radiance is touched simultaneously with all parts of the

body, invisibly. How many letters would I write each day in order to send

my thoughts? Fire is the quickest of animals. Which direction has January

fled? I woke early to worry. Not to say that I wish I had stopped to

gather some of the fallen branches of the cherry. And yet to trim a tree in

flower is a violation of the laws of beauty. If you respond within a

newfound bark.

The notion of descent from trees has been almost lost sight of. Her

grandchildren were farthings. Smaller than the needle of a compass, and

clearly pointed. Even so, prosperity is still linked with the well being of the

tree. Weeds have been worshiped. Corn offered to the blind. Snowdrop,

fair maid of February, the fruit of the ash. The earliest gods were rock and

mountain. And temples formed by shadow.

A hollow tree overhanging a pool is a place of unborn oracles. Bury flour

in the course trunk of an oak. This brings prosperity, so reads the fortune

of doves. Linden twine was tied to guests at feasts to prevent intoxication.

A copper kettle later, this rag which is called courage. I summoned myself

to curtsey. Despite the looming thoughts of stray nimble birds. No less a

fly caught in amber. Tree parentage. Pelopiadae descended from plane. 

Laynie Browne’s most recent books include a collection of poems, In Garments Worn By Lindens (Tender Buttons); a work of short fiction, The Book of Moments (Presses Universitaires de Rouen et Du Havre); and a novel, Periodic Companions.