The harpoons of my mother’s legs as she tip-
toed across the heavens, the only trace
of her boredom a wrinkle in the lavender sheets
as she dusked the sun, her hair the tails
of crows whiskered in the sycamores, her fingers
precise as arrows as she plaited the threads
of the galaxy—would you have refused her?
And so the second of her transformations,
from the stars to the waterfall, a piscine spirit
wending its way home to humanity
one gene at a time. She should have been warned
that all forays ashore are temporary.
From the mulberry bark, from the butterfly weed,
from the birch and primrose and creepers, she wove
her case for mortality. The scales dropped
from her wrists and thighs, and she walked again
among the tribes. She crafted robes
unmatched in smoothness and strength, her voice
trickled over the fallen limbs
of trees, and soon she took a lover.
But the tribes were unkind, refused her a husband,
and she became the waterfall again,
exacting her vengeance as a flood. My father,
it is said, drowned willingly, and so
my cousins are sometimes jealous. But the scales
have not fallen from my limbs. The men
who observe their obsidian glint quail
and shrink back, pull the bed clothes
up to cover themselves. I pull
my coat’s leathers tight, its quillwork
astonishing even by electric light;
I pack my pipe in my knapsack of brittle
kelp, and unsheathe my ax and awl.
The bloody work is quick, and none
of us cares so much for precision as we used to.
My mother knew that the dead, like the stars,
are indifferent, revert to dust, and not
to moonlight or constellations or fish.
The bagged up chum won’t care to recall
the hump-backed man who smelled
of oysters, and became, instead of a lover,
an overturned bucket of lob worms.
Published in Cider Press Review, Volume 22, Issue 4.
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