The rain is haunted;
I had forgotten.
My children are two hours abed
And yet I rise
Hearing behind the typing of the rain,
Its abacus and digits,
A voice calling me again,
The kids lie buried under duvets, sound
Asleep. It isn’t them I hear, it’s
Something formless that fidgets
Beyond the window’s benighted mirror,
Where a negative develops, where reflection
Holds up a glass of spirits.
Rain is a kind of recollection.
Much has been shed,
Hissing indignantly into the ground.
It is the listening
Haunted by these fingertaps and sighs
Behind the beaded-curtain glistening,
As though by choices that we didn’t make and never wanted,
As though by the dead and misbegotten.
Fairy tales are full of impossible tasks:
Gather the chin hairs of a man-eating goat,
Or cross a sulphuric lake in a leaky boat,
Select the prince from a row of identical masks,
Tiptoe up to a dragon where it basks
And snatch its bone; count dust specks, mote by mote,
Or learn the phone directory by rote.
Always it’s impossible what someone asks—
You have to fight magic with magic. You have to believe
That you have something impossible up your sleeve,
The language of snakes, perhaps, an invisible cloak,
An army of ants at your beck, or a lethal joke,
The will to do whatever must be done:
Marry a monster. Hand over your firstborn son.
Her body like a pomegranate torn
Wide open, somehow bears what must be born,
The irony where a stranger small enough
To bed down in the ox-tongue-polished trough
Erupts into the world and breaks the spell
Of the ancient, numbered hours with his yell.
Now her breasts ache and weep and soak her shirt
Whenever she hears his hunger or his hurt;
She can’t change water into wine; instead
She fashions sweet milk out of her own blood.
That it was shy when alive goes without saying.
We know it vanished at the sound of voices
Or footsteps. It took wing at the slightest noises,
Though it could be approached by someone praying.
We have no recordings of it, though of course
In the basement of the Museum, we have some stuffed
Moth-eaten specimens–the Lesser Ruffed
And Yellow Spotted–filed in narrow drawers.
But its song is lost. If it was related to
A species of Quiet, or of another feather,
No researcher can know. Not even whether
A breeding pair still nests deep in the bayou,
Where legend has it some once common bird
Decades ago was first not seen, not heard.
Courtesy of K.W.