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Marginalia, Highlight Reel, and Cabin Fever
Marginalia I’m walking on a beach, the tide is low and no one is talking, splintery crabs hiding in kelp beds, an arrangement of mergansers shuffled on the water, their loopy hoods puffed up like forgetfulness— absence mapping its piece of mind. Give it fifty years. I’m skirting mudholes in a rainforest soaked in shades of green going gray, appraising here and there a nurse log with its row of sapling firs lined up like a kindergarten class, slime mold like finger paint brightening decay among glades of deer fern and maiden fern I brush through footnoting the dissertation of a wren. Someone hands me a letter— it was just yesterday, it hit me like the oldest living thing on earth still eking out its long resurrection— seagrass silting, map lichen grafting continent to stone to sketch a scion life I never lived only to read about it later the way a diver reads the bends. Delicately I cross hectares of crab the zodiac has stranded, spiders by the causeway stitching filaments of light to leaf to shade when overnight a fog arrives dripping invisible ink. What else goes missing in a blink? Heroine in a gothic novel. Pebbles dribbled on a forest trail. Snail whorled into its own long wandering in place. So Vikings in their longships enter second grade. Grass grows over the drifting harbor. No one says I look just like my mother sharpening a pencil or a spade. General amnesty when the fog rolls out again. Longships unfurl longshoremen loading and unloading trains— so many nights rattling off the boxcars in my head, miles to count the sleepers laid out one body at a time born again three towns away. Maybe you’ve seen those trees joined at the hip— towering trees like yellow cedar mountain hemlock— unlikely twins rooted in one plot of loam—each cleaving to the other’s shadow, each reading over the other’s shoulder at the sun end of the hall that missive they’ve been all this while mixed up in— separation’s thrall. Highlight Reel Cold streak in spring— the city in scarves and down jackets beside a bonfire that wouldn’t ignite the frozen scowl of a taciturn monk. A little snow falls between cobbles dusting for fingerprints. A stone fountain burbles in an icy tongue. What people there are out-of-doors, wrapped and padded, scurry between heat lamps looking for a place to warm their vowels. Stray dogs move beyond the walls of the city sniffing out catacombs in low relief. Since part of this is dreaming anyhow, throw in a snow leopard shadowing an orphanage, that old tale churning through ambiguous loss. I have to take it in stride, the window howling like hearing your name shouted over a field of flowers cut and potted—no one’s father calling you home for supper. A tavola I call you, wisteria to fresco this chapel of the polar vortex mauve. One daughter’s a medievalist now assembling her candlelight dissertation by the Seine. The other moves reluctantly through middle school watching as dawn squares a window like the closing credits of a movie she loved reciting every character by heart. I count the bodies in absentia as snow falls like plaster out of the highlight reel Romans in the piazza wave through saying come out see for yourself the columns are moving leopards prowling beside the river’s negative. Walls beneath this city flash proper teeth: backfill of statuary, broken dishes, acanthus leaves dropping from the tramway above. How easy to get lost in someone else’s story. The only way out is through that frieze of bodies disentangling, naming each face until you find the ones who answer their inheritance sifting limb from loam. Cabin Fever – after Ötzi Not much for conversation. It starts in the feet— heels like rime ice, instep shivering. It calves in the frost- bitten tongue. I was a mountain dogged by leaden cloud. Ptarmigan stuck on a camouflage stone. To each his own renown. Snow mixed with other verbs—mist wrench (run for it) rage. Nothing moves me like ice retracting up the couloirs of a trodden age. So many things I’d take back: tattoo on the overlooked shoulder, the quiver of wands, grass seed clinging to trousers like a sure path through the meadow. Let me hold again the ember wrapped in oak leaves, middling in darkness, cubby hole of kindling stripped of my name. I live inside this house of glass, shutters prying. Hailstones pelt like a baby shower, disseminating swarm. I walk in circles to keep warm— the cabin glazed with condensation. Self- talk. Each day passes like a century of smolder. Face inside a floe, breath inside a hanging cloud, draw closer. I’d kiss you for an arrow’s worth of flight.