For Jack the Ripper walking tours
Walk a pentagram
our souls sold.
As for us,
we marvel as
our own effluvia
He promises a canary dress, white gloves,
says they’ll eat chops, thick as her thighs,
that they’ll order doubles of the “finest,”
see all the Big Names when they arrive.
But it’s the thought of them dead:
half of what they own draped around them,
her head against his chest, his back slack
against the headboard, all their letters unopened,
bills not paid, long knocks, the notices tacked
outside their door. It’s not knowing
whether some smell would introduce them
to their neighbors or a landlord wheeling
them out into the hallway; the highboy
he chipped on the drive up, the silver
she inherited from her mother, her hatboxes,
stacked high next to them like a wedding cake
waiting to be buried. He heard that “up there”
the wind had talons sharp enough to hook
a grown man beneath his collarbone and carry
him a full city block. He heard that you learned
the months by measuring the length of their shadows
and even summer was like a quality of night.
Errol drives me to Treasure Beach It’s an old story, the terrible storm
swerving the dark country roads the ship going down, half the sailors
I think about what you will be, your mix drowned, half swimming the
white, black, Chinese, and your father’s slate waves, spat hard onto shore
Scottish-Englishness. We cross the Black River Smashed crates, bodies
where they shipped cane sugar and molasses choking on the black sand
upstream past a sign One man stands — What is this place? A woman
for Lover’s Leap. The air stinks of sulphur in the trees, one hand raised
Errol drops me at a blue gate. Be safe This is how the Scotsmen came
behind the house, the thin beach why the black people here have red hair
of black sand, the water warm and gray Or the other story, no storm
I am deep before I know it, groundless no wrecked ship. Just the miles
the swell stops the sickness of cane fields and mulatto children named
under a crooked tree, perched on sea rocks McDonald or McArthur for
two fishermen in torn denims, smoking their fathers, who owned them
I dry in the sun. They pass, turn, come close Nothing grows at Lover’s Leap
they have rust afros, gold faces splashed with freckles where two runaways
one ripped with muscle, one with eyes cornered by their master, held hands
like razors. What you want here they say and jumped down into the clouds
The snow falls, picks itself up, dusts itself off
a sparrow flying like a leaf back up to its tree
The future does a backbend toward you, it’s
what you can almost see, scrimmed
in the clouds which crowd the sky, elbowing, laughing
After that I see space and its influence in a bucket of spinning water
and two calcium atoms shoot forth, twinned photons traveling
back to back, arms unlaced, perfect
swimmers in the lit dusk
Where are they going?
First, to Holland, then
to calcium-kiss her bones
And in Holland the streets are made of water, the dolls & dogs gather
round lit picnic tables like happy rags
The body is in the root cellar
When snow falls our dead gather close to our bones
because the cold’s ghost has come back to haunt the cold & the body,
too, is a happy rag
Tree, take a photograph of her thought, you can do it
with photosynthesis: silhouettes of seals appear, a swarmed planet and its satellites, a
celestial atlas that breaks when tapped (it’s glass)
Some giraffes, some elephants, a lion scatter
in the clearing; in the clearing
the leaves of the world turn toward the light as do the letters of the word
the words are beautiful not for their accuracy but for their dream:
words-are-arrows that loop between no-man’s-land and the wetlands, soft
flints flying toward their target
—words bird the zone—
when home was adopted as mother
area was given here
[a future of] all surface, no border
what the youthful eye
would have studied
chicory? bluebird? debris?
Today no nomenclature
of a chalk-blue haze
pausing, even dawdling,
now and then trembling
over what I’m going to call
In the window of the drawing-room
there is a rush of white as you pass
in which the figure of your husband is,
for a moment, framed. He is watching you.
His father will come, of course,
and, although you had not planned it,
his beard will offset your lace dress,
and always it will seem that you were friends.
All morning, you had prepared the house
and now you have stepped out
to make sure that everything
is in its proper place: the railings whitened,
fresh gravel on the avenue, the glasshouse
crystal when you stand in the courtyard
expecting the carriage to arrive at any moment.
You are pleased with the day, all month it has been warm.
They say it will be one of the hottest summers
the world has ever known.
Today, your son is one year old.
Later, you will try to recall
how he felt in your arms—
the weight of him, the way he turned to you from sleep,
the exact moment when you knew he would cry
and the photograph be lost.
But it is not lost.
You stand, a well-appointed group
with an air of being pleasantly surprised.
You will come to love this photograph
and will remember how, when he had finished,
you invited the photographer inside
and how, in celebration of the day,
you drank a toast to him, and summer-time.
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.
In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.
Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.
It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll.
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.