susan smith nash
Brick by brick, strip by strip of filigreed tin,
we built the house we would substitute for Self --
5 miles from the border between existence & infinite void.
It is where trees scrape the sky
like the edge of a medieval map of a Flat Earth, and we see
ships sailing into the vast & unknowable place some call Imagination
but I call Love,
as I reach for you, searching for you
in my dark and painful fevered night.
We are no longer the subject of our own dreams;
you were in a ship that fell off the edge of the earth.
I was anchored on Terra Firma,
learning the language of deracination
like a child sent to a convent after surviving plague --
christened into a new family of "sisters" and "mothers,"
ordered to forget the void where I once possessed a name.
We planted a garden next to our little home --
cucumbers, tomatoes, lemon trees and tea.
We pickled pears and apples
in the shade overlooking the sea.
From a distance, our window panes were calligraphy
spelling the universal presence of God.
In the mornings, you would hand me a glass of juice
pressed by your own dear sweet hands,
and I would drink, as though my entrance to the Infinite
could be represented through the act of swallowing.
I wanted to sail with you into the map itself.
Terra Incognita could mean Unknown Earth,
or it could mean the places my mind travels at night
searching for you when my fever spikes high
and the demons you kept at bay
crawl into my joints and tear the fibers from my heart.
I'm direct, and some say this cannot be poetry.
But time is short, we must engineer our categories.
If a text is multiple, it is either philosophy or poetry;
if the image connects the concept to the heart,
it is poetry and simply that.
But when the poem makes me aware we must be together or die,
when it breathes and becomes my reason to fight,
then "fight" means "dream with sadness"
and the "You" becomes my concept of Universal Love.
Unity is more than an integrated psyche.
It is the comfort, the mental structure we require to endure our lives.
I must be direct. Tomorrow we may die.
We built our little house with bricks and filigreed tin,
knowing our actions foreshadowed loss;
our windows overlooked our lush little garden
next to the ocean bordering the edge of the earth.
The ship took you away from me
the moment I spoke the other's language;
the map that had once squared us in the center
now slips us to oblivion.
But when I open that window we placed in its case together,
I breathe lemon trees and roses.
I remember you
yesterday, handing me a glass of juice
the color of life, the work of your hands
still present in every drop I drank,
sweet but thick with the dense salt brine of tears
foreshadowing the moment
I would cry your name beyond our gentle sleep
and into my dark and fevered night.
We cannot live if half our body is void.
(4 march 2000)