June, yet the roses are still asleep in their black dormitory,
Illusions of grandeur dissolving mid-air like sugar in weak tea.

Soon, they will hoist themselves out of their despair,
Muscling in on the atmosphere with their fragrant animosity.

The hedge-clipper’s bicycle, a pair of spectacles at this distance,
Leans against some reticent shrubs.

For blocks, the lawns are strewn with tattered burlap.
Brown, stained with the sweat of dew, it could be clothing

Tossed from your dreams, the entire wardrobe
Of your dread unconscious pitched out

As your body, the quivering pelt, slept on
Clad only in bracelets of air.

In the bedroom, surrounded by four-legged non-creatures
—Table, chair, dresser, bed—

The body rises, shifting its inner tropic from swamp to tree,
Pats the floor for its shoes, places a thumb

On each side of a sock—the mugging grin of a boy
About to stick out his tongue—

And slowly, as if dipping a foot into cold water,
Rolls the puddle up over each ankle.

Upright now, wrapped in a drape by the window, see the bit of cloth
With flaps like arms that lies chest down on the neighbor’s lilacs?

A pale shirt? A smoking victim from that night you thought
You were Deianira in a world without a doting Heracles?

Soon, the red velvet she might have found to enchant him
Without killing him will hang at the top of every ladder of thorns.

This Issue

November 10, 1988