From pacificREVIEW

The muse

Mute by definition, a dream-swarm, that which induces your reverie, that which parts the folds deep in your imagination, that which passes through to desire, through to where any sensation begins. I, the muse, reflect you and recede; I bare my teeth when you look at me, sink one sharp tooth into your impulse and make it bleed.

You release on a canvas and you move the blood, sticky and metaphoric, as you would a gouache. You push it to the edges and rub it deep into fibers. This is how you touch me and this is why your palette will never suffice. You see this only now because you are slow and inconsistent and because everybody loves you. Wise up! My power fades: I am the thin vibe, my escape comes at your behest; if you snap your fingers, I die.


It is a rotten moment because we must talk, and according to the language theorists we are in a prison and must contend with the tragedy of pronouncing syllables. They stain your lips and I reach across the table to wipe them away, and this is when I understand your want and possibly its origins. It’s too heavenly to see you, and the candles and dim lights are all clichés, but your articulation enfolds me, your syntax strikes me hard and numb, and this is defeat in the true sense, this is surrender and glory.

You take the stage inexorably, and I sense Western civilization fall, signifiers crumble, and all of this because I most adore the stories in your gestures and can’t imagine proscriptions. We sit senselessly in this poetic mourning and proceed to our shared salad, our respective meals, our nonutterances, the quiet that builds around us, and when the plates are cleared, there is surface for our wandering. We have anecdotes, more crudities, and still, place drops away, gravity fails. Introspection is what becomes apparent in the white expanse and in the unacknowledged wish: language and its sacred defeat.
You see my hands for the first time and this is the most important attraction—what you see in their fixed form, their potential to interlock.

I settle on consumption. We are the ones who can lick our plates and be happy. We eat these three hours alive. We pity Time and its earthly vulgarities. We stumble and it holds us and we don’t give it a glance or our grace.


How long have I known you? A thousand years. It’s the sleep that makes me think that all this time has passed. It’s the sleep of wet lovers, the sleep of exhausting rejuvenation, and I wish it back without opening my eyes because if they open, the dance ends.

Have the dreams been sweet? They have been alcoholic and addictive and evanescent. They have scolded me and praised me. They have come to me charged with your sweat and pooled charm. I sit up in bed and think of cherry blossoms and cut grass. I smell the sun’s heat soaking into the spongy earth.
Do you wake with numbed limbs? I have the opposite problem: mine wake in the night and take me, still sleeping, to the garden out front, where I lay on tiny stones and where I am dusted by the branch of a Japanese maple, then to the field across the street, where the mud splatters my ankles and calves, where the shaking between my joints subsides, where penance is useless. They walk me to the intersection with the vandalized stop sign and I cut my foot on broken glass and bleed a trail back to my damp bed, the land of you.

Later, the moonlight—your wanting eye—keeps me bedeviled. I sleep in fits, grabbing, reaching nothing; there is no tomorrow.

Still, I contain nothing but gratitude. Your index finger runs down my back but in a flash of consciousness I see that it is the dream that does this to me, that brings you to my body and its subtle stages of warmth.
The moonlight fades; I fall asleep for the twentieth time with dawn on my lips; the hours of deepest sleep—the brutes!—ignore me. They pass by my stale-smelling hair, my sore thighs, oblivious to what they inflict. I tremble in their concentric circles, vow to remain under only your nocturnal vigilance.


Satin, flannel, cotton—the fabric is not important. All become skin and breath.

Skin: microscopic bits of flesh fallen away from foreheads, wrists, hips, consumed by smaller organisms burrowed deep in the sheet’s creases, their munch tiny but never-ending, continuous. We gorge ourselves with the tasting of other folds, drinking in sighs and the chakra-energy that flows down our spines and into our pelvic bones thrust upward, in the direction of the soul.

Breath: that which flows into the lungs, brain, corpuscles, tissue. Your palm high on my chest rises and falls, riding an invisible flow at the top of my body; your palm, lower, moves with my belly, my effervescent gut, my push and pull, my oxygen sprawl—life and all its lack of sound.

You breathe into these sheets, into the center of me, swallow all my exhaled, carbon-heavy desire, the magic of science.

On the next cold day, we will rise and go to the window. We will puff our breath onto it, watch the cloud spread a spectacular diameter. We’ll drag our fingers through it and taste the condensation, watch the tiny beads that remain trail in the paths like desolate children.


Time stops and we watch each other live. We pull questions from our marrow. We sponge each other's bodies and are safe and quiet. Our joints move freely when they carry us.

Words come plentifully and gift-wrapped; hesitations are brief. I comb my hair in front of a truthful mirror and am blessed with its refrain. Your silence holds me still.

Questions become decisions, and we make them with stunning confidence. They arch across canyons, they are insolent and incontrovertible. Ancient armies cross their greening stones, and still their gestalt mesmerizes.

Moisture from a late-fall rain flows into the depths of brick and mortar, pushing outward as it freezes. In twelve years the brick cracks in two. Bits of it tumble into the canyon. People see the flaw but turn away in the moment of denial essential for struggle.

At twilight a boy dislodges the brick as he bends to pick up his ball. This is the fissure in our architecture.


Here is the end of story, the beginning of story. All that is left is repetition. We bring each other what we cannot mention and hold ourselves responsible for the transference. When I head home from work, late, you are already asleep. I watch your face and the intricate twitches—spotty and electric—that emerge on it. We are beautiful in the dark.

Place has significance now, and molds us. We allow for imprints but deny markings. In twenty years I recede, again. You snap your fingers and I die, again. You push the blood toward barriers that cannot hold.

In twenty years my wings have grown. They fill the living room and I perch on your assumptions. We pack suitcases and drive out of town. The scenery reminds us of old selves. You drive, I doze, you turn to look at me. At times I know that you must turn away.

We leave our things in the cottage. We take pictures of some other town, a seaside, grassy dunes. We forget to talk to each other. Your hand on my skin is your apology, my smile your answer.

You take a picture of our arms, extended, our hands interlocked. How many pictures is too many? Fifty pictures, spread out over a lifetime, seems sufficient to convince us of event.

When we get home, you build a gazebo in the backyard and it is sanguine and unassuming. I imagine star-crossed lovers there, heeding a single call, and I imagine myself perched on the gazebo’s roof, my feathers spanning it, visible peripherally in the lovers’ eyes. It is another generation below me, strangers’ sighs, the coyote howl distant and the moonlight vigilant again.

The feather I leave, which I imagine the lovers never find, is dark brown and split in two places. It is passed over as unremarkable, but it lives nonetheless. It waits to be found; the storyline gains potential in the hollow stem.

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