Frog Queen in Fall
Already, Iím sick of apples and trying to match myself to myself, match sweaters to my greying hair. Where there were leaves there are leaves of a different color and they estrange the wind from itself, from its earlier direction. It is drier, the wind. I hate it like a sister, burning and creeping my hair, making it all electric. There was a time when I wanted to keep it with myself and the flowering trees -- when it seemed too private -- or embarrassing, that I was not chosen but had to choose something for myself. Iím not sure you understand risk -- in your cities -- risk or what happens afterward, when you win out, the big pay-off. The kingdoms were like counties then -- like suburbs -- close together, kings upon kings -- my father no more or less than any of them because, you see, the queens were the real headache, brought from what was then called far away, collapsing on stairways, ordering textiles in enemy colors, asking the poets to dinner. It is true that everyone was more beautiful then and its not just childhood makes me think so. I am progeny of shade. I see what is -- absent queens, what makes change -- and safety was not yet a word; Do you see why we learned to conjure? I liked it. The possibility of being self and self, of the windís selection - nothing matters to youth. You do not understand risk or regret. You imagine yourself the ghost of your motherís final suicide; you imagine yourself the incision -- or the inner life of the amphibian. Itís not as clinical as it sounds. That we are our secrets. Allow me some inaccuracies, some memory -- or do you know the word Ďaphasia?í I liked it. Two slices of skin unable to slice back together. The streets in the town were disgusting, beyond that -- filth, disease -- and, of course, it reached us out here, beyond the tips of the trees. We are all wanting to be tragedians, to set forth our little Cordelias, let down our rapturous pre-Raphaelite hair, to die and be a lily or be the same but more beautiful. I am not death or some kind of costume, or even a stuffed effigy waiting to be burned into something. I heard the conversations of the queens -- the asking of permission, asking others to listen, ten million poems of courtly love and I think I have written them all. As metal holds to metal, there are no more sorrys, in my exhaustion. Sometimes I think I am the end of the pastoral -- all those sparrows and squirrels and the men who make them, their endless ancestry. Do you see now? Do you see risk, as it is -- the visceral -- frogs are not like drawings of frogs. You may have my story. The wind is my elective -- look how it swims me to Greece -- shows you the truth. Reader, this is fame -- the parts that have kicked away, the pictures in drawers or boxes belonging to people in far away places, people who speak and cannot envision my ears or the actuality of the slick of the frog.
Feeding a Boat-tailed Grackle in the Everglades
We didnít know whether there would be gators or crocs. We couldnít even remember the difference between the two or which tree was banyan and which palmetto but we said these words to each other as we drove the flat band of causeway, this filled in strip of swamp. They were relics, vague images from poems -- we like to say we love language, love words like banyan and palmetto -- the meaning doesnít matter so much as the connotation -- the association -- the inflection of oneís voice -- but really we didnít know anything about birds or nature and so -- when faced with three choices -- three ways to see The Sea of Grass -- by boat, by bike, or by canoe -- we took the boat, the airboat, because it looked Edwardian, pre-digital and because the boatman seemed nothing like Miami we took it, or the boatman took us in it, gave us cotton for the fanís noise. We didnít know it would skim the water, keel onto its side, roar through the greenish murk like a light hovering insect. We didnít know if we were killing any of the animals. We held our hands together, kept our sun glasses on. When the boat stopped -- in a closed off pool -- the roar stopped and we couldnít hear as we had before it started. The bird appeared in silence -- perched on the prow, most beautiful branch in the world. The boatman gave me a bit of bread, said, ďDonít be afraid,Ē as the bread disappeared.
Explain the dark and the air that fills it past all suffering. Explain cruelty, memory, words--- or how they take a shape within---if they float or dangle and we grab at them, hold close the ones our mouths can make, the ones not stopped by tongue or palate, those not drowned in spit. Or does the mouth do it alone, I mean--- does it begin there, are they made there, the words---as when you say 'enough' but mean 'ensure'---and then laugh to cover up. I have witnessed this and I think nothing--we're not even that--- we use our mouths to eat and scream or just cry but we speak in unison against you and the world you made. I shout in unison with the sheep in the meadow and I think that some thing far from here is all that 'meadow' means. They keep us all in one class and when you see us at the bus stop---start or end of a trip---you must think we are so good and quiet, how we never fuss. I wonder do they tell the school inspector what we are or why we sit as we do, the pink lights dimmed to make us comfortable, or does he just think "such workers, such busy bees." Last year he did not come in---he looked in through the glass beside the door. We busied ourselves, began to copy things from the wall---the shapes and things, things like the sheep--- his words were mostly lost in the glass--not lost but separated--- I heard him say we are "affectionate" and see he saw us put our cheeks to each other's cheeks, saw our hands in our hands, we put the crayon in, and I see the man beyond the skinny glass as my sister, speaking "help me" before she ever walked. She crawled toward a garden snake and had it crawl to her and flick its tail or tongue to her. Imagine the whole muscled body---its one long intestine---the dark inside the darkness---dry scales against the scales--- and the sound of it--all near and not much below and I ask you, we ask you, what do you say?