It must be austerity coating my tongue,
tasting of nothing, dry and flinty.
I dream I am burning, scorching
in a fast cast iron oven
able to see water through the isinglass
but unable to open the door. It is
a nightmare born of a baker
and her sailor husband, gone to sea, maybe
dead. He is a blur, really.
I watched him scrape the barnacles
from his boat’s hull and every pass
of the steel tool burnished
my heart smooth like resting dough.
I’m brittle now from lack
of air breathed from him to me.
His rough hands always tore
my books. My beloved’s thick skin
brushed my worries overboard.
I have read too many recipes for forgetting.
If I stop dreaming, he may return.
When we lift the boat out of the water for the season, the barnacles are a blur on its rounded hull. We must scrape them from the wood with steel, completely unlike a cat running its rough tongue along its leg. I expect the tool to make flinty sparks as each animal comes loose, and to be drenched in wet splinters and the spit of crustaceans. I imagine that my hand is a claw, slashing away at all that is wrong in the world. Small-minded politicians. Bomb-marked landscapes. Blue silk burqas. Protesters whose posters sport badly spelled racist epithets. I daydream about cocoons and how we could all change into beautiful creatures with short, definite lives. How austere we would be flitting from one sweet flower to another, laying a new generation in glistening eggs before falling to a forest floor, our bodies feeding the trees. The boat’s bottom is burnished and brown again. My muscles are brittle under my skin, and I return home to soften in a tub of freshwater, its steam scented with salt and the bodies of animals whose lives I’ve erased.
I lost her in the Metro and did not care. Let her go to the cemetery
and lie on Chopin’s grave. Let her stand alone at the white cathedral
and weep her cold tears. By then, we had untied the umbilical cord,
spilled the old blood and stopped breathing each other’s breath.
Her words for comfort, blankets, milk, breasts, were meaningless
in my new language. I had screamed my own meaning: wool, needles
aspic, paper. The water tasted like oranges afterward, and I stood
on the balcony naked and warm. The street below was all vendors,
cut flowers and coffee, bread and caged birds. I saw her creeping along
the cobblestones. I moved back behind the venetian blinds,
slipped between the musty sheets, and prayed for sleep.
The lilies were unexpected
like a dive into shallow water
or lettuce sprouting in the lawn.
The summer had been strange
since the beginning: dragonflies
and pink sky in mid-afternoon
clouds like gauze curtains, no rain.
She hallowed a piece of garden
blessed it with a spade
knelt and mouthed an alleluia
set down the lilies’ roots.
The hive buzzed
beyond the yard. Honey
gathered on the comb
dripping like dreams.
Soon she would be mistress
again. She would never hang
her head, never waste away.
Kristin LaTour’s most recent chapbook is Agoraphobia, from Dancing Girl Press (2013), as well as two others: Blood (Naked Mannequin Press 2009) and Town Limits (Pudding House Press 2007). Her poetry has appeared in journals such as Fifth Wednesday, Cider Press, and Atticus Review. She appears in the anthology Obsession: Sestinas in the 21st Century. She teaches at Joliet Jr. College and lives in Aurora, IL with her writer husband, a lovebird, and two dogitos.
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