And so found myself to be the not-iris planted in the Mary Garden as in picture her eyes (forget-me-nots) her hair (maidenhair fern) her fingers fluttering as she speaks with her hands (potentilla). Called away from conversation exhausted and oriented towards contemplation of the marine, of polar properties causing dissolve, causing at the same time such tensility of surface so as to support the lightest plying across. So moved as water strider, gerridae, Jesus bug. Then plunged myself as a procession of salts from river to ocean to air to ridges of minerals thickening.
This way, as plot, I sat under his florals in my strapless and petticoat calling ark to the darkest center. Ark and then ark again to the in-between to what starts over as one who was charged with carrying the text, doves at the corners of my eyes. As one who, nevertheless, abandons her favorite cat to an empty field.
There was to have been a picnic basket, its blue and white checked cloth and, under, cucumber sandwiches and Prosecco. In this way we would act out an adventure from a previous century. To consider oneself an academy, so often disbanding in the face of dissent. To compare this version of oneself with the one that had been mere mirror. You raise your still-wet finger, consult the air for the direction of the wind, adjust our heading accordingly.
In a primordial version we walk back through the small grove of trees, undressing and unafraid because naked among naked stags.
I was on the bridge when it happened. First I thought a stunning fog so thick it blacked half the town opposite. And never did the remaining cables look so delicate as then. Then, the billow creeping toward me and I knew before I thought: twisted tramcars and bones. To become the last fire in the lower left corner. To put your hand on the horse’s rib and with your last force press in.
Or would we have stood side by side, each in our own subjective space projecting inborn saviors and savages on the clouds as the house with its garden, the town with its river its coal breaker its interstate receding at long last beneath us?
You were nursing the burn on your finger as if rehearsing the very form of the incommunicado self. I was rubbing the dog’s belly when I noticed the air balloon lifting from the spot it had inhabited so long on the horizon that, upon looking across the garden we no longer remarked upon its presence. When your gaze softens to the back of your face I imagine you have stopped taking the air’s temperature and have begun, instead, to inhabit it. By first sucking the finger until the sting abated and then blowing small steady streams of breath over it, your lips in a hard o.
At the edge of the garden I was laid down, scrappy wood at my back. By fear or persistent wind I was pressed into nails but covered with silk by the dull grace of empathy. Ply and so ply into feathers and a voice saying here we do not measure things by unity but by heft left out.
At the edge of the garden I was called into having been folded and found it to be a natural state. Fine threads of pollen a release tossed to the green and the green printed over with shadow-leaves. I can assure you this was no equivalent to spring, but was a season done over with the cliff parted from the cliff, throat of finch, the yellow bird as song rather than as proximity to gold.
The horse was the last horse and the air balloon we agreed was the whisper of God. Light angling pink, there, on the side of it, which we would have called sunset if it hadn’t been just after noon. Metal angels melted down to make the dictator’s hands.
Penned up in the slaughterhouse they did it to us there where they used to do the goats and the sheep.
Or hovering for days, a new planet and what performed underneath was war. The usual carnage but then you looked closer and yes that was Sally and that was Seth. Stripped of their suits and ties and carefully laid out on the mint. This is not supposed to be luminous, ash dirtying the dog, frail wind gusting up paper money and stars.
Picture her smock (morning glory) her veil (baby’s breath) her nightcap (Canterbury bells) her gloves (foxglove) her shoes (columbine).
At the edge of the garden I was ribbon-bound to pleasure and nailed to the triptych’s central panel.
At the edge of the garden a view of the house with its nesting-box rooms and at its center the broad ebony bed slung with a canopy of lawn.
I could not look up from the page without abandoning the page. Because I wanted to be equivalent to a flash made flesh, interior iris become a golden bird carved apart and left to harden in the sun.
Florals raining down, pressed into skin.
Petals pulled from the daisy in rejection of the plot. What flowers as the Bethlehem star (bellflower) the flight into Egypt (fig tree) our lady’s tears (lily of the valley) her bitter sorrow (dandelion).
Dizzied by the lilacs I stood but found I could not maintain position, parallel to such a tree. I maintained my position but found that in truth I was laid down, not only flat on my back but in truth what had seemed to be a landmass rising above the sea was a small room in the middle of the valley more vast than ever I had seen. Limestone to the right of me. Limestone to the left.
Because a shell of silence surrounded the horse I stood near him, the rest of town submerged in soft baying and continuous digging machines. No space from which to pry myself from the world around me, its ash and corpses, inorganic, organic, animal human vegetal—indistinguishable all. Rebar, concrete, rock, bone: the hard things making mulch of the earth with their sinking. And what if I were to sink. And how then are you to find me.
And within the shell of silence I first heard the violin, which began like standing on the pier and you were running your hand up my dress and we don’t care if anyone can see, not even the men with their still-flopping fish, the small boy’s mother struggling with his kite. But then the violin becomes something like waves lashing and a woman in blue chiffon.
Absurd, I thought, touching ribs stretched with a patchy chestnut coat. This is breath, I thought, pier fading, sunlight slashed off mercury fading, and then the rhythm of air forced from moist nostrils, damp heat pressing out.
Two men hold banners to signify an army’s vanquishing. The only clean thing becomes neither method nor traversal but pause. Warmth of the pulsed body pressed into the pearwood fretboard. If meaning manifests through sensation, that is, through the body, then the offering of a fruit. Bruised but, nevertheless, edible. Soft bray, nose pushed into the trash.
How to coax you back when you dig into a stance of rejection. What does the smoldering forest represent? The pack of wild dogs that followed our naked idyl. To answer by repeating a statement as a question. This becomes the only way we understand how to keep spoken language going. Silence the fallen pearwood its purple core of originary wood.
Not method or traversal but pause. Between one mouthful and another. Between one word and another the unlikelihood of waking in the middle of the field, your guitar on my lap like the baby we never. And the strung-glass ornament of constellation, industrial horizon. What do the twisted tramcars and outsized metal hands represent. What, the pack of dogs.
Karla Kelsey is the author of Knowledge, Forms, the Aviary and Iteration Nets (both Ahsahta Press), as well as the forthcoming A Conjoined Book (Omnidawn Press). She edits and writes for the Constant Critic and coedits, with Aaron McCollough, SplitLevel Texts.