If a city’s outskirts are ragged, were they once ruffled or ruched? Three popes ago, my brother and I. Two down, him possible across uncollapsed tree, sand sky. Assignment: Pleat starfish fists and chicken bone fringe until numb. Given: the sky is old, filmy. Given: the tree blooms guns from its sour gums. Given: how danger, close coming, feels like windows. Therefore: Offer one body. Therefore: Pain like glass chrysanthemums.
Glass room, doorless, half embedded in a beach. Perpetual sunrise or twilight, and that’s the worst part, not knowing which way time slips. No, the worst part is how the water won’t come into focus, neither wave nor foam, but the tentacle wrapping the join of the glass clearly counts grains of sand. The way in certain eighteenth-century paintings dogs in their specificity are better memorialized than wives. Toward the station, scent of frying octopus. No train.
Night is a counterpublic. Everyone has been freed from the icebergs, except the glass matron gathered over the bed. She knows the pillars in the water make a pillory not a pier. From offshore, mountains are smoke whales, uncut trees velvet barstools. Pray. Not to hear the owl (its passing the barest impression of frayed wire), but the curtailed scream and rubberous echo. The middle ground’s contagious with budget skulls. Each portal siren blue.
Carolyn Oliver is the author of Inside the Storm I Want to Touch the Tremble (University of Utah Press, 2022), which won the Agha Shahid Ali Prize in Poetry, and two chapbooks, Mirror Factory and Dearling. She is the editor of The Worcester Review. Website: carolynoliver.net Twitter: @CarolynROliver