[from Miriam Levine's The Dark Opens, Autumn House, 2008]
Just as I lie back, two red dragonflies
loop together on the rough sleeve of my sweater --
under blue-gray wings, soft amulet,
raised dots, downy and dark.
Flushed with joy, I turn to you,
but your eyes are dulled with pain --
your bones are turning to powder
and your hands won't work.
These reds promise you nothing.
Why should you be glad for me?
I'm swelling with good health
like your young Peace Rose
with its iridescent frills of light.
If I were cruel, I'd hold up this eaten leaf,
its stiff skeleton showing through white mould.
I'd say I'm thinking of The Nature of Things,
but it can't console you, that ancient book in Latin.
I won't tell you how beautiful and inevitable this little death is,
the lovely delicate white powder tracing the leaf ribs, the leaf
stuck with shining galls, all of its soft parts given over --
as you will be given, you and I, but first you.
When I see our dog plow the dead
squirrel from the dump of pine needles
and roll over the flattened carcass,
flying bits of squirrel stuck to her back,
I think that's what I'd like to do to you
if you died before I did. First put you out
in the weather until you shrunk
and dried like a smoked side of beef.
I would roll over your stiff body -- licking, nipping,
getting your smell on me as I've done
for all of our life together. But this
time I would get under your hair,
under your skin. I would crack your bones between my jaws.
The rusty marrow would turn to liquid in my mouth, and finally I would let go.
Except for earrings red bud is naked.
Weather licks her shaking arms.
Redder and redder red bud
pushes out flowers,
drops pollen on the wind.
Fresh fans open and flirt,
darker green as they age, crimson as they fall;
red bud undresses in the rain,
jewels in the jewel box, sap sinking;
underground, roots mingled with worms,
sucking up water under the snow.
Stripped like a New Year's Day swimmer, red bud stays to drink.
"Food, Sex, and Betrayal"
The Dark Opens