DSQ > Spring 2008, Volume 28, No.2

The Stroke and After Words

The innumerable cause of the just begun
And the body's willing hemispheres

- Jorie Graham, "Day"

for Ranita

There was no prophesying this.

Even in hindsight I am blind

to waiting associations, troubled

as they are. Shy to relinquish themselves to me—

The day before the stroke, the new moon arrived

on her back, a trivial splinter, a small sky wound

not to be worried. I unpacked boxes

of research books, sojourns into divination,

Muench's geography of gypsum. (If the snapdragons

weren't talking, neither was the tuberose, so I was left

unaware. A lurch in the loam of ignorance.

In the loam, I tell you.)

Pay attention. Because I've been limping

beyond cause, cousin to resistance, I've learned

will is the body's own clamorous spectacle.

And nothing deters the inward stare—

or our bare reduction to hemispheres—a brain

no different than any other starving thing, saying

of blood, I am still reaching for it, though

it has already arrived.

Sappho's Last Dream

Give me children whose hair folds into night.

Give me nights with girl laughter, the whorl of fine fingertips in air.

Give me laughter sharp as lemon.

Give me lemon and leave me on the road.

Give me language I will not sing.

Give me song that slays the bird.

 No, do not give me song. Sad sparrow.

 I cannot learn that wing.

 I cannot love the wind.

 I cannot bear the sight—

  my body taking leave of earth, and night

  willingly folding into another woman's hair.

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