Moon over the Caspian

Susan Smith Nash




Thinking of you

a prayer, silent and lunatic

settles on my lips.


Memories circling overhead

I interpret, I guard, I construct

a thousand & twenty narratives

tied together at the wrist --

stories adrift in an oil-slicked sea.


Ghosts intensify with time,

and the one who haunts me comes alive here.

I've seen the earth burn --

that same layer still burns within me.


we're not the only victims

of love and memory


The sturgeon & other enormous roe-filled fish

swim the depths, brushing the ruins

of love and devotion carved into stone.

They say the Shirvan Shah loved his daughter too much;

he destroyed his own art

his psyche melted like paraffin against flame when he lost her.

My version of this myth is factually inaccurate -- I do not care.

I taste the salt of the Caspian and the dust from the ruined calligraphy:

I ask, must we always witness the destruction

of our own life's mission, of what we have loved most?

in life?  in love? in art?


The loss the inverse of the first miracle of meeting --

two spirits woven into the same, thick carpet

of dreams, desires, and unfading joy.

We wanted to test the limits of meaning

as our words joined the narrative of the carpet

complex patterns & infinite repetitions

of the name of God;

the intricacy gave us hope

we someday soon could know the power through the name.

The design comforts me in its complexity

and I know

the carpet trains the mind to dream.


I am not of this place.

I am a blonde and I do not speak the language well.

Freedom came too late for me --

I thought words were enough

to curl into cold, hard metaphors

as precise as razors, as bright as steel.

Now they coil my wrists behind my back;

my own words make me helpless

as I enter the waters slicked glassy by tears and oil.

It is a vast mirror

of the moon and the moon's own mirror;

the face is of fire.


My own desire is monitored

by a western helicopter circling overhead

assuring me that my words are nothing more

than acceptable aphoristic phrases;

a friendly but false cliché, if you will,

because I've trusted images in computer screens

and not the bodies woven into wool

by those who still have faces

in this faceless, rusting lost empire of souls.


The helicopter is not new, but its rotors

chop the air into layers

as thick and lush as the days

you spoke to me, you wove me into your heart;

a carpet too complicated for me to comprehend,

newcomer that I am --

and doomed as the warm Caspian waters close over my head

my hands helplessly wired behind my back.

I am resigned but joyous;

the fire still burns in the moon's pale mirror

and I know I will emerge from my helpless depths

transported on a carpet

that has taught my mind to dream.



Susan Smith Nash

January 1, 2000