Blackbird an online journal of literature and the arts Spring 2008 Vol. 7 No. 1



Slipknot: Starlight

This is the forest fire of my twenty-sixth year. Part smoke jumper,
part smoke. All the silver fillings in my mouth have melted.

I’ve set this narrative to burn down your front door. It burns blond with centerfolds,
blue with feverish babies. Both flames stitched together with won’t.

—There, I’ve tried. That’s all I want to remember. Now I’m starting over: 
The air is shallow as an anorexic’s mirror. Grey clouds. White barn.

The road overcast with feathers. Death only a Buick away. I brake
for the oblique meaning before it burns off like morning fog. I’m trying

to see something naked through the ascetic’s light: a thumbnail
freckled with blood, a clear pane of rosewater. I’m so close to home,

I can smell the dried mint over my mother’s bed. My childhood happens
like this: A mortician’s assistant sets the table with tarnished silverware.

The forks all wrong, the knives remaining. Someone dies. Or rather, no one dies
and we go poor. I conceive the smallest prayers walking home from the bus stop:

Let the cold be cold, and let it be quiet. Not even the wind to carry their cries.

And then a summer washing rented cars and reading only the endings of famous books.
On Van Buren Lane, the tar bubbles and bursts. Farther out, beyond the Evans

of that City, the streets are subatomic colliders, Medusan waterways, statues sleeping.
I listen for car crashes on the police scanner. A game of restraint. A game of velocity

and heirloom bone structure. I listen to save someone else, someone other.
Lightning flirts. Thunder stumbles, and arrives. The rain is four minutes.

By fall, the order of events no longer mattered. The maple leaves ransom their colors
for warmth. It’s all kindling until I meet K next to a vase of freeze-dried lilies.

K: my neologism, my netherworld nurse, all ether and eye shadow. She began
by sliding a wine cork into her pocket, saying, I always feel more alone

in a crowded room. We met at my aunt’s funeral, where the dead were inevitable
and unsexy. She was twenty going on twilight, a little S

and lot more M. But it was her seizures, undressed in the exact violence
of light that made me hold her down in the dark. Inside K, I was dusk

with an ashen vintage. I cindered every which way.  At our wedding,
I admired all the hypochondriac pastels, each dress minted green

with envy, with luck. The wine was from Paris,
Indiana, the rice from Des Moines. We thanked everyone for the gifts

so easily divided. My childhood ended like this: Bloodroot, Trillium, Bull Thistle.
I’ve told you almost nothing, but don’t worry, there’s still time

to show all the scenery, haunted and revisionist. I could tell you anything
before the slipknot of starlight closed. Watch:

This is the light,
this is the steeple,
tighten it
and choke
all the people.

I’m tired of meaning what I almost say. Sick of grief turning intelligible
near the end. This started off as a way to endure everything:

Added breath. The assonance of a moan. Seventh degree burns.
Couldn’t it be more than a death knell beside an unmade bed?

Couldn’t it—for a moment—be the moon’s dress of embezzled light?
All reflection. All dust. Soon it will be Thursday again, a street sweeper

polishing the pavement, clouds suspended above like overcast hosannas.
And the cornflowers against the fence: never as blue as I remember.

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