Wednesday, August 30, 2006

fall burning

On vacation in Maine for another day or so, learning about sweaters, man-of-wars, and tides. In the meantime, another one from the archive. This was first published in The Paris Review, Fall 2002.

When she brought it to him, wrapped
in paper, gray as skin and greased with rain,
his finger lay heavy on the printed word.

The news filled him with the black of broken
street lamps. The word he was following
was ash, a story about a fire, pollution.

She stood on his carpet, weeping, every fold
of her, rain-webbed and darkening, and it was
because of the storm that first he missed

the blood of her step. Color ran through
the ribs of her hands. It took the both of them
to strip the wet layers and find its stopped heart:

a pigeon, pink-eyed, wild. Between two cars,
its wings had worked like a valve, its mouth,
opened and closed, dumb. So making love

to her that night, the blood, rust-thick,
was little surprise—a red line through her
body, twisted between her legs. He stood

up from the bed and the evidence lay heavy
as scent, a chronology of touch. He burned
the bird in a barrel with the papers and leaves

he’d been saving, slick flames beating close
to the lines. The sky flushed between two trees;
still, the musk of smoke clung to his hands.

He buried his breath in her hair. He held
her shoulders, and his fingers made marks
where they lay; her bones, small and sharp as wings.