Tuesday, August 12, 2008

After Raven carried water up for snow, she slid down the icefields to make fire

We have to think it out. The gods
no longer speak to us, or when they do
they ask the impossible. This dream path
is marked with stones and shells
strange and luminous, but if we
pick them up to take home we steal
our way back. Madonnas, angels
intricately carved out of bone or glittering
in geode reliquaries must not be touched.

Farther and farther away we find ourselves
from where we ought to be, must go
by a certain time: performance call,
audience waiting. Back in the auditorium
among creaking seats lies tangled the unraveled
emergency rope we wore crocheted into a coat,
only one shoulder left, and the red lines
cross downstage worn thin by pacing.

The boat is sinking, the heart sinks
but at the end of the lap a hand reaches down
of the one before us who won the race
we didn't know we were swimming.
His fingers are cut off at the palm, but
enough joints left to hook you and he
pulls you out with a smile. You didn't know
you could swim that well, to come in second.

On the way to the bridge, in a block
of burnt out houses torched by the landlord
small children wait for you on the bank
with a fish in their hands, red flanked sockeye
dying in a jar. You make haste to throw it
back into the water but the bank slopes out
and you wonder whether it will only roll in the dust.

The high narrow bridge gleams
over the brilliant city, you ride a train
atop a rattling car and when any scaffolding
threatens to scoop you off, you dodge
successfully, dropping the cup
watching it turn, blinking and shining
all the way down into the outgoing tide
where it belongs.

-- Jody Aliesan

As published in The Raven Chronicles, 13:2:08