Sun. Thrush. Retina. Opens with a messenger.
With an introduction in the sunken garden. You wore a white blouse
the smile of somewhere else, grown up in the manse, and we went
to see the holy man only once-
that knife-nosed missionary, your father,
his hands folded over
the knob of his cane, chin on his hands. He told you
the lock of hair arrived safely. He blessed me, and you
turned to find yourself alone,
alone with me in my own country-where the lobes, you said,
of people's ears were fat and white, quite
different from yours. Where someone's idea
began to fail signally like a language and it was me,
it was my idea. You flew back to the gingkoes. And then
your lock of hair arrived. Thank you, I wrote.
Scouring the letters of your letter for the subtlest interplay of registers.
I studied the halation of stray wisps. The years-
as they say. If I telephoned, no one was there. An earthquake ago,
all the prefixes changed, and the birds--
catapulted from trees-staggered
on parabolic streets, their beaks open, panting like dogs.
Like dogs we panted. Stumbling from bed to toilet,
I stiffened at the dank, feral blast of your unflushed urine. You
beamed on a tour of your city, crossing the moat, translating for me:
When they needed more rope in the besieged castle
hundreds of courtesans hacked and twined their hair.
We stared at the display. The women survived
to die grey-headed
centuries ago, though the arm-thick,
coiled braid remains bright black.