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NOT THE FORSYTHIA
he doesn't let the herd eat the forsythia but
knows they like to be amidst its blazing yellows. He stands they graze he watches. Ida watches. She puzzles him he puzzles himself. Her old plaid sportscoat his tendency to befriend catastrophe. She is innocent and filled with mood like a very tough experimental baby. Her drawing book open on her knees. Blackish iridescent hides shine green as sharks amid the herd. A lone white one (Io) glows like an idol and is Ida's favorite. She looks at her drawing looks back at Io sets her drawing book down on the grass. They smell she says. Why they're called musk oxen he says it's in a gland by the knee. What is? The musk. Some people hate it he says. You ever see a musk ox dip its head to touch its knee get out of the way it's going to charge but Ida is no longer listening. The oxen move slowly. They chew coarse gaps in the weeds shifting ever so slightly sideways with their great brows bent and the long fur sweeping their ankles. Each head has two horns that part as neatly as a boy about to play the piano wets his hair and hopes it stays flat for the whole recital. G faintly smiles. It's their looking down he loves the steady way they pay attention downward yet are watching everything else too. A musk ox can see 310 degrees around in a circle. Like cats he thinks. Like cats Ida says. What? Look easy to draw but it's so not true. Ah he says. I don't hate it she says but G is frowning now. His wings are rising up on his back and he wants to know why.
THAT OLD CLICHÉ
of polar adventure fatigue flooding his body in waves. This wonderful longing to lie down surely he's been walking for years surely he should stop and rest a moment against one of those satiny planes of ice that allure on every side. Cucumbers Shackleton Spam why is everything draining away why this silver ebbing and flowing not quite reaching his brain. He is so tired. Pour the honey into the jar. He dozes. A sudden violent sneeze shatters him in all directions. Oh he says aloud let's not die in the jar and with an effort that seems to rip his spine apart arches his upper back. Stiffened wing muscles pull hard against their roots and move into a lift. Pieces of ice break from the primaries and fall in a shower. Again he strains backward and up against what seem like seams of steel thinking maybe I can't do this but all, all at once the coverts jolt terribly free and the motion begins. He is rising. Air grabs his knees. Out of black nothing into perfect expectancy – flying has always given him this sensation of hope – like glimpsing a lake through trees or that first steep velvet moment the opera curtains part – he is keening down the ice fault. Soul fresh. Wings wildawake. Front body alive in a rush of freezing air. He opens his mouth in a cry as red sadness pours away behind him and the ancient smell of ice floods every corner of his skull.
A SALMON ANSWERS Ida when G asks. Some conversations are not about what they're about. The word conversation means "turn together." Turn a salmon turn home turn Prometheus a hopeful god. Turn organize his life! Do not turn betrayal not kiss. Night bones. Day sleeper. Girl. Not stark naked not stark itself. What do you want to be in your next life. A salmon. Why. A rescue. How. A play. Whose. A reading. When. A Friday. No. Is that why they call it the Rec room.
Alfred A. Knopf
Copyright © 2013 by Anne Carson
All rights reserved.
Reproduced by Poetry Daily with permission
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