Many tiers make this world pillowed on stone
many collect in their fear to strive.
Yours the face aglow in the cold,
precarious thriver in the song-stung dark.
With glance and lip you collected me.
Where are you? Alien hip I catch you out,
refuse cheshire blazon, unpronounced tremolo.
Now to step into the prints you left.
Winglessly now to embrace your air
on tiptoe, phonetic and misprized answer—
know you me? Tease this mystery? Kiss,
cats, for your dear dog am I, better angled
to see you by night with eyes straight upward
and by your leave to praise and praise.
She has forgotten what she forgot
this morning: her keys, toast in the toaster blackening
the insides of beloved skulls, little planetariums
projecting increasingly incomplete
and fanciful constellations: the Gravid
Ass, the Mesozoic Cartwheel, the Big
Goatee, the Littlest Fascist. Outside her window
a crowd gathers, seething in white confusion
like milk boiling dry in a saucepan—some
lift fingers to point this way and that
with herky-jerky certainty but
they’re standing too close for all
those flying hands so that eyeglasses and hats
fall—apologies inaudible, someone hands
a fist, the brawl overwhelms the meager traffic
of pedicabs and delivery trucks stacked high
with rotting lettuce. Meanwhile above it all
she’s setting out the tea things: ceramic cup and saucer,
little pewter spoon, pebbled iron pot, a slice
of Sara Lee. Waiting to remember
to turn the radio on, listen for the elevator, for
the lock to turn or a knock
on the door. In a little while she’ll put everything
away in the same configuration
at the bottom of a clean white sink
with its faucet dripping.
We who watch this, half-turned away already
toward sunny gardens or the oncoming semi—
being not the one dead but not exactly alive either.
The skin is a glove that wrinkles as it tightens.
The cerebellum’s the same. A game
of chess between walking sticks—I mean the insects
made up to resemble wood. I say we dissemble
from photos and repetition
our stakes in these weightless names.