You held the islands in your eyes,
where it rained
and rained and then the sun warmed wet to a wafting hiss.
This Jean, you, the feline slink,
filigreed shock, and sinewy comb
of whitelaced waves
puttied blobs of shore.
you looked out
when no one was looking,
when the judges had lost sight of you,
and then, daring glee, you’d dive
into the smallest kingdom,
of mudpies and sandcastles,
seafizz kissing the wiggling halfmoons of fresh pink toes,
and you’d laugh and laugh, nymph of the sea,
begging its inheritance and claim
with the involuntary desperation of the meek.
Yet the islands, at the mercy of memory-tides,
flooded regularly, and you, rag doll corseted to a raft,
were carried back back back—
the shabby hotel rooms with vicious mirrors,
brightly lit cafes with trained voices
faring your terrors,
and your heart, o your poor heart,
a ruptured cadenza
consummating tender relations
with all the wrong men,
and out of its brokeneness
flowed the sap and resin
of nursery school blues—
I didn’t know
I didn’t know
I didn’t know.
There was the bottle,
gauzy fretted palls,
the milkfingering of wind.
There was also ribbed fringes of prose,
and that was where we found you,
alone, the barest treble,
shipwrecked on a distant island
that was mostly made of mist, and nostalgia, scabbed.
You held the islands in your eyes, Jean, where gashes
came to know the sea’s suture and rhyme, its flicking bluegreen tongues
as balm and frolic upon
the smallest kingdom