I go right through that opening, pulled
by the howls. The stars shine
like hooks over the flat land.
In the dark a cactus touches my arm.
What did I do? What have I been Before?
Got up from the bed inside, from the night,
nude, opened. I opened the door & looked.
The moon was like an actress,
warming the unsaid
words with white, cool glances.
What hour is this
in the mind, what is that
year always going
ahead of me like a siren on a rock,
low then high,
softening the mouse-tall corridors of psyche
with yellow light.
The few times I remember,
as a girl, doing this. Getting up to walk
like the dead. Going out of the house,
soundless with my childhood
& the woman twisting
beneath the vellum of her
stillness, bare-footed in the bliss
of a waking dream,
a woman opaque as wind light,
scratching the limbs of sycamore
& catalpa, thinking
of nothing but the water she is,
over the ground in an unknown place,
following the mind’s gleam
like a cinder.
Cacti grazing hip-stalk, mosquito,
nightbirds, jazz. The mule deer.
I bathed in the tears of the coyote,
I listened beneath the water,
unstitching my skin, & folding it
over the ledge of every word.
I’ve ever been. Used, repeated,
revised. I’ve been that.
I bathed in their shaggy tears.
The distance in the mind,
nearly planetary. Celestial in its narrow blossom:
the brain stem, the spine, the ticking hammer
crowned by nipple, brown fig.
I’m too far to see
their slanted shapes.
Gander-pimpled, my skin
squeezes its mouths closed. Ecstatic, stellar,
the stars burn through their net, fall
from the rim of cinders, burning.
Brightness in the dark, please
I turn into every shadow I’ve ever envied,
stare at them until they form another woman.
I touch her shoulder of flames. I pull her
waist of night toward me. We rock above
the howls of the tribe. The coyotes
move off, answering the hunger,
the syncopated swing
of brush & self –
torture, the embrace of two
motherless women, pouring blood
into a basin of memory.
Rachel Eliza Griffiths is a poet and visual artist. Her forthcoming collection, Lighting the Shadow, will be published by Four Way Books in 2015. Currently, Griffiths teaches creative writing at Sarah Lawrence College and lives in Brooklyn. Please visit: www.rachelelizagriffiths.com.