Poetry by Bridget Gage-Dixon Art by Mae Lu
n. a flash of real emotion glimpsed in someone sitting across the room
A noble error this lurch toward the luminous,
your body quickens, you unfix your lips.
She ropes a wisp of hair around your finger
settles a quivering hand on her hip,
The pair of you proffer yourselves
to the steel blade of desire.
She is all sinew, you smoke,
She flowing mane and frailty,
you muscle and ruse.
You spark suddenly, she glows
beneath your gaze.
There are always several versions of this same story;
Some end with a symphony of sensuality
others in a slow march to the harsh cadence
Of course she cannot know this now
but I was once the woman turning always toward you
once you were the man turning constantly away.
It was me then, igniting underneath you
back before I dissolved into cinder and slag.
Black sky dangles above the thin bones
of a garden trellis, on a chaise beneath it
you curl your spine to meet the knees
you’ve fold against your chest,
all your life you’ve tucked tragedy
into your pockets, secrets moldering
just out of sight.
Your hands, clasped, are covered
by a constellation of blue veins
memory, an unrelenting maelstrom,
thunders through you, a swift, sharp strike
to split persistent shadows.
There are words you cannot
bring your tongue to form,
a hundred wasps you’ve swallowed
they drone inside your throat.
You press them, when possible,
into your pleated heart, in the empty space
between each rib.
You look up through the maze of pole and wire,
past the lines that grid the heavens,
through the tarnish of street lamp,
you can almost see the boy you were
before the sky split open,
before moon went blind,
back when god survived.
With the comb’s sharp black teeth
she scratches out a straight line,
lifts a section of coarse strands
neatly between her fingers, trying again
to teach to me to tame my daughter’s hair.
Her hands, familiar with the twist and turns
of braid, work without her eyes,
instruction flows seamlessly
as she twines hair with one hand,
with the other applies a thick blue balm.
I have bought the beads, the salve,
the tiny black bands to keep the braids
in place, but this is a skill I’ve yet to master,
to pull them tight enough to cling to scalp.
My daughter fidgets on the floor,
feet folded beneath her she rocks,
crashes, like a rogue wave into couch
and then recedes wincing as her aunt
tugs, tightens, does what I cannot,
twists tumult into order.
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