Night has come.
The evening’s ripples smooth themselves into a dark glass.
I sit here at my desk,
my grief cradled in my hands like a nestling
found abandoned in the thickets.
In the apartment across from mine, your lamp flickers.
I can make out your face, undulating in the shadows
your profile a pale, waning crescent.
You are hunched at your desk, shoulders tense,
your hands ash-like as swallowtail wing,
a half-moon of ink under one fingernail
(so close I could almost reach out and touch you).
Though we are strangers, we met once,
long ago, on the lonesome shores of that other hemisphere,
You lying beside me among the rushes, your tear-stained face streaked with
the dust of Malebolge,
The memory so faint now it sits with the Pleiades’ dimmest stars.
Your pen whispers, that quiet staccato that is yours alone,
your breath carving each vowel, the words rising and falling.
Through the beveled glass, our eyes
meet for a brief moment, the length of a heartbeat.
we look away, embarrassed, conscious suddenly of being strangers
gazing into lives that are not our own.
You return to your writing,
I to my books.
Between us, the night swells.
A shadow, you roam the weeping crags,
your grief wrapped tight around you.
The withered branches of your face,
the twisting bark of your skin, have known
the touch of violence:
How it hardens, how it mangles.
Among the rows of missing bodies and
makeshift tombs, the spring dawn
yawns itself awake, unfurling its
tendrils unabashed, daffodils
quivering wet and raw in the flush whisper
of morning, early lilacs dawdling down
tangling paths, skirts seeping plum, peach, apricot.
You stand, uncomprehending, as the gardener
shouts your name, his face like the gathering of dawn
over Yamtha d’Genesar, the far-off shores of youth lapping
at the threshold of your memory, the dirt of his fingers
whispering a mother tongue you can’t recall.
Noli me tangere, the new leaves hush,
and you withdraw a trembling hand.
Alone you drift over mountain and desert,
barefoot you wander the rocks of Ḥaqel d’Ma,
scattering with the snows of Ture-Kardu,
and onwards into the sands of Yeshimon you fade,
as the ripening spring
reaches out its fingers to you, its young buds
rooted in such a fragile and unlikely premise:
that the dead return.
Let the dead
rest, you say, let them be,
those who whisper
among the unquiet phantoms
of linden and poplar.
In that unbridgeable garden
a place so patient, as if
in this quietude
you will find, perhaps,
a small pocketbook, a gold ring
with your mother’s face.
Look, do you see?
Two girls run across Pont Neuf,
faces flushed, skirts in hand.
Will you not
glance their way,
those laughing ones with waxen
eyes and wrists
all critics agreed,
Cassandra Jordan is a writer living in New York City. She is interested in the histories beneath history and the stories within stories.