It happens not only in mythical places —
in Vrindavan, say, its burnt hills split
by the river's jagged edge, midnight coming on
and everything waiting — water's corrugations,
steel gray on cinder gray, lying in wait, and the
blown grove of coral and acacia trees just opening.
It was like that, driving the inland highway
out past the dark tobacco barns, the sky full of stars
and the road full of deer, moving slow and ominous
as comets across the black–top. For a good half–hour
I had my head out the window, shivering
between earth and sky, meteors falling and
the white tails of the white–tailed deer held up like candles
under the pines. Then a car rounded the curve, veered
at me. Anything could be out there. A man could split
your windshield, hold his iron hand on your arm, wrench
you open. Night's like that. Wherever you stand, you're
circled, shadowed by it. I've felt it even
in my own back yard, the concrete walk–way
fluid as a river, smoke–gray between the gray
tomatoes; my hands a blur, the skin barely pearly,
slicing through the air that veils them, cupping the dark
away. Anything could be out there, where the wild grape
grows back thick and thorny, and the blown grove holds its breath.
Anything could be there. A man could be there
lighting the thicket with his own skin, the grape leaves
that cushion him lit light green, the arbor glowing
pale as a paper lantern. Look: his hand's blue
as lapis lazuli ground fine, bound to the page, then
burnished with agates; his lip's bright red for kissing
or biting; and his garment's brilliant yellow, dyed
with the piss of cows fed all their lives on mango.
Will you enter that intimacy, pillow your hair
on mulberry leaves, your skin stained blue from the fruit?
The wind's a silk hem, pulled slow over grass. He could
brush you with a squirrel's tail, cup your dark, open you.
Love's blind and blinds. Don't we know that in the West? Who sees
very far into any heart or thicket? And when did a god
last fuck a girl in a garden? True blue love's rare
as a glimmering deer or a white–tailed star, unlikely
as Krishna. Open your eyes' black waters. Anything
could be out there. My skin shivers blue at the thought.
About the Author: Nathalie F. Anderson won the Washington Prize for her first book of poetry, Following Fred Astaire, and the McGovern Prize for her most recent collection, Crawlers. Her poems have appeared in The Paris Review, North American Review, Denver Quarterly, DoubleTake, Louisville Review, Southern Poetry Review, Inkwell Magazine, New Millennium Writings, Nimrod, The Southern Anthology, and numerous other publications, as well as in the Ulster Museum's collection of visual art and poetry, A Conversation Piece. A 1993 Pew Fellow, Anderson is a Professor in the Swarthmore College Department of English Literature, where she directs the Program in Creative Writing.
Copyright © 2008 by Nathalie F. Anderson. This poem may not be reproduced in any form without the author's express written permission.