Once upon a time I was employable now I am God
of a beach town. I stagger to the stern and bid the sea
good-night. Wave trembling and mute, the dock refracts
my song across the bay and sings light off to the lighthouse.
The moment of first landing in a foreign city is a perfect
realization of forlornness. My tears are rain, my exhale fog.
My mortal enemies, the gulls, think they have won.
Their bodies burn and turn to salt in my revenge.
It is written I shall be capricious. A sheep has jumped
overboard and the vegetables are getting very dry.
My eye is never weary of the dark green waves. O drowsy,
grey and salt, under the ill-fitting coat of the sky,
the sheep struggles on the altar of sacrifice
and I’m holding court on the beach again.
Text in italics from Retrospective of Western Travels by Harriet Martinaeu (1838)
The day the bookstore caught on fire
I was busy arranging marriages
between dead poets.
The plump white cat escaped,
Barely. Here are some words
I almost heard once through a wall:
Fastidious, flammable, dust.
If Shelley wrote six volumes and Keats
has disappeared without a trace
I’m making the investigation a priority.
I’m still looking for a fire extinguisher
or a bucket of milk.
I’ll write this in archival ink
so as to make it outlast us
like a prehistoric insect in an amber
asylum. The black bug crawls up the damp
Windowpane. The rain has become quite insistent.
Puffs of white fur are burning
and dust is once again becoming dust.