We came together in celebration
(is not every world a miracle?)
and like the twins joined at the hip
so were we tethered
sparking the night
in a place named House of Birds.
Not long after
and seen for the first time
the four moons of Jupiter
circling like sharks.
He came disguised as a vulture,
we offered him iguana, flowers
our most beautiful boys circling the sky
suspended from their weeping chests like moons
in the light of the torches
their bodies black with soot, the boys
Moon Boys, Lizard boys
sacred as jaguars
tethered at the heart.
In the year named Death named
Split Down The Middle.
The boy who called herself White Quetzal.
The boy who called herself Lady Cormorant.
Egret Ruler, Door Keeper (he the first to fall)
all at once seized
in a sea of sprung traps
who cried out like deer:
Moon Woman has fallen!
True Magician has fallen!
Mother! I, too, have fallen…
Here I am, hanging. Come for me.
Come for me
In the year named Lament.
In the year named All Of Our Losses.
Viscera unspooling black and red
on this day named 49 Death.
When gravity overcomes us
when our magic fails
there is no place a body can hide.
We wondered then
where are our mothers?
In extremity shouted out:
Where are our mothers?
We made ourselves invisible
(the jaguar does this, the moon, the snake).
We lay still, a big black blanket
holding up the stars.
A voice shining in the wreckage of the air:
It’s ok. I’m here with you.
Much later some of us returned to
a certain kind of visibility.
The floor bleeding
spilling its dark substance
into the days to come.
Some awakened in the place named White Bone House
with broken jaws, forcibly initiated
into a dark knowledge.
It is said that in extremeity
everythng eclipses, everything above and below
is born of shadow and formed of light
light which has no body yet dances.
It was then, there at the side of the road
my friend caught my eyes, held them, they leapt
moths between his hands
his bloodied cord uncoiling between us.
Later I walked away unseeing without him.
Now I walk each hour of the days alone and unseeing.
Such work cuts the tongue from the mouth.
Yet before it happened
we were all the colors of the rain, we were the music
of Jupiter’s moons in motion
in the infinite reaches of deepest space
our bodies tethered at the heart
in something as sacred
Know that each encounter, each embrace
leans over the edge of a crater.
If we fall we fall all the way
to the other side where the pavement pools
beneath the force of the multitudes running
Know that pain resides
in a street scattered with cds and cigarettes
a child’s supper spilled on the landing, a spine
a snake broken against a wall
a woman standing tall beside the highway
her pride shining before she is made to die
fear striping her back.
Now even the rain smells bad.
That very night, in that moment on the sweetest of afternoons,
over there, across the street, on the lawn,
suspended from that tree, that
fence—there—do you see it? (It’s ok. I’m here with you.)
the scales of snakes
the fur of jaguars
their eyes the
bones of their feet the
soft purposeful organs
their beauty, O!
The beauty of the children!
It happens fast, a world reduced to gravel to vapor,
A stench that does not belong to us and yet is ours.
The heart swinging from its rope?
As when in an airport, a subway, a city street, a jail cell, on the prison stairs, in
custody; it begins on a sidewalk beside a city park.
And then a boy and all things within his vicinity
It was like that
When the tongue was cut from the throat of the world.
We hid like roaches behind the toilets but couldn’t make ourselves small enough.
In this way betrayed—as is the child—hiding behind the curtains, beneath the bed,
deep in the closet, the cellar, the train car, in her mother’s overcoat hanging from a
hook. Standing there thin as a pin, small as a mote of air, cloaked in the very body
that when struck repeatedly, breaks.
As this transpired I was with her concealed in that place above the city you knew so
well. The sound of the night owl, the moving water and breezes—all this making us
as safe as within a house of paper.
In the distance we could hear the music, smell the corn roasting, the iguana meat
crisping on the coals. Hear our people singing, their voices made for stories, their
clothes made of feathers, and at their ankles: bells. In this way they were the
children of the gods. Their hearts secure in a box of green stone.
I sat with my mother, our heads together, holding hands—in that place were once
there were people known for the extremity of their innocence, who spoke all the
languages of the flowers. Recalling this perhaps, my mother held me close, said:
little creature…little sprout…
The air shimmered in the heart of the coming summer as beneath us the world
collapsed; we saw it happen. In that instant grew old together. The heart of the
people crushed beneath a weight so stubborn no one has been able to lift it, not to
this day. We have exhausted ourselves trying.
my mother, my one mother on her knees, changing color, melting like wax; she is
He was killed like a cow.
(And it is true.
Born of men he was killed without mystery.)
He didn’t DO nothin’.
He didn’t HAVE a cow’s face.
He had the face of a MAN.
THAT was my man’s FACE.
And this is why I am here now
In this hard place
In the city.
I need someone to come for me.
They say when you are buried
with bullets in the body and when
the flesh falls away
those bullets fall, see…
they tumble before coming to rest beside the bones.
And that makes no sense. None of it.
Something’s the matter.
O my beloved.
My boy, my only love, your body changes color your chameleaon body,
pristine as the stuff of stars, your perfect knees the palms of your hands,
run through by metal by anger the holes in your back…I wish I hadn’t seen it,
I wish none of this had transpired, not here, take it elsewhere, send it careening
into deep space why don’t you? For we are burdened, joined at the hip in the hard
work of dying. Falling together down the steep side of things. Yes we are falling.
Propelled by a sail the size of a lunar sea in a ship no bigger than the eye of an ocelot
the bunghole of a fox, its nose a nipple probing the ether leaving behind it a trail
My mother said:
Please don’t tell me he’s gone.
Don’t let him be gone.
His body a star assaulted by a shadow.
Still we heard him shouting:
do not, he said. Don’t do it. Please don’t do it.
She said: My body is mine, see.
I mean it is sacred, somehow.
Keep a respectful distance.
She said: I am not an animal.
He ignored her, and after the fact
galloped away in the shape of a horse the color of lead.
He had the face of a goat.
White as cheese.
According to the authorities,
She closed her eyes.
The knife was left lying with its sharp edge up,
she hanging by a rope of hair.
The following day we named ‘Tribute’.
The day that follows Macaw Madness,
Tribute takes place in the heart of Hell,
right beneath the angry eye of noon.
Now they are speaking over him saying:
Take a handful of white salt. Toss it
across your shoulder onto the backs of the cattle.
Take a little hair between the ears of a cow
a little blood a
teaspoon of gunpowder.
Piss, spit and you will forget forthwith
where and when the unthinkable happened.
Now, in this instant, strangers bestow their grace upon him.
They say that once the Pleiades signified
a flock of cockatoos.
The horns of cows were worn as amulets.
These suspended above a door, in a window
above the bed where the little ones were conceived,
later to be born with the faces of children.
We are not cattle to be corralled into a pen.
Brought down with a thud.
Know that when night comes
it is not because the sun has abandoned us
it has been eclipsed by a thing
for which there is no proper word nor a tongue with which to speak it.
This word arrives like a truck
white as all the angels.
The author of nine novels, three collections of short fiction, two books of essays and five books of poetry, Rikki Ducornet has received both a Lannan Literary Fellowship and the Lannan Literary Award For Fiction. She has received the Bard College Arts and Letters award and, in 2008, an Academy Award in Literature. Her work is widely published abroad. Recent exhibitions of her paintings include the solo show Desirous at the Pierre Menard Gallery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2007, and the group shows: O Reverso Do Olhar in Coimbra, Portugal, in 2008, and El Umbral Secreto at the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende in Santiago, Chile, in 2009. She has illustrated books by Jorge Luis Borges, Robert Coover, Forest Gander, Kate Bernheimer, Joanna Howard and Anne Waldman among others. Her collected papers including prints and drawings are in the permanent collection of the Ohio State University Rare Books and Manuscripts Library. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Museo de la Solidaridad Salvador Allende, Santiago Chile, The McMaster University Museum, Ontario, Canada, and The Biblioteque Nationale, Paris.