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Book of Hours


A pentecost of bloom: all the furred tongues
awag in the iris patch, windrush through the fireflower.
To what wonders they may testify
I don't know, my earthy idiom hears as noise the hiss
of sweet alyssum and the bees' melisma.
Shouldn't that be enough?óbut I fidget
around the garden like a wasp for nectar,
greedy, antic, spoiling for the ruin
of meaning. One long morning I looked thus
at inkwork on trussed vellum, a gospel
in cochineal and verdigris, gold leaf
haloing the majuscule. The manuscript
twined a black briar stem and barb from margin
to margin. No untangling that liturgy,
no telling the prayers in its glittering pigments.
Yet I adored each page, and bent to stare
so low that my lips touched the serif
of an illuminated T. I left
the archive chrismed with turmericó,
until, in the sudden rain, all that I kept
of that book washed from me. The spirit's
a terse mutter to the flesh's aria, but I'll forget
today's ecstasies when the wind dies,
forget their honeyed buzz when the bees hive up
for evening. Against the stillness of that fast-
approaching, anaesthetic dark
I nuzzle the humblest buds to my chin, dust
the shyest red pistils across my wrist,
and when too noiselessly their petals brush
my ear, I will declare them from my very lungs
and I will mouth the wind back upon itself:
Paperwhite. Paperwhite. Incarnadine.


Kimberly Johnson

Indiana Review

Winter 2012


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