Statement of Record

3 POEMS / CRAMER

3

Sappho

i: In Egypt

Mummified crocodiles—

her shredded

songs curved with the dry

sticks of their tongues.

Strip by torn

strip, unknowing

servants applied them

to the mummy’s solemn

ribs, & what ancient

paste

could have saved them

from sifting to trays

of shriveled olives

& pomegranate

ii. Ellipsis

Her songs restored, thus:

unraveled to vacancies,

whole sections traded for

an arid hush, slender omissions

abrupting into strains

of a nervous lover—my tongue

breaks up & a delicate fire

runs through my flesh—

her body ravished

by a need so deep

only this forged

rhythm could keep her

from breaking down,

from seeing that the fires

which rage inside us are a kind

rehearsal for death.

& how to edge closer

to that mystery than such

silence

iii. In Lesbos

Her town market

preserved,

its teeming

inventory:

oyster,

wine flask, figs

& golden bracelets

the punctured intervals erasing

half her city

so the streets are lent a new,

imposed syncopation:

anklebone cups

honey

chickpeas

each piece

parceled & perfect,

as if it were the first time

sounds were used

to signify the world:

crocodile,

pomegranate,

the words curving, still wet

on my tongue.

The Chase

I hate that the word

I spilled in anger is still

traveling away from us

into space, particles

striking each other

in a commute unending,

a mini comet

with my fury as that tiny

pinprick of fire out front.

When my body’s gone,

I’ll still be the record

of all the words I say—

that slow, irregular

Morse code rippling out

to the stars. But some day

millennia from now,

some unfathomable

life form may catch,

in their alien equivalent

of an ear, my future

long since past—how,

with my next words,

I hunted down that ridiculous

quarrel, how I trailed it,

shadowed it past pulsars

& through asteroid belts,

far past our galaxy’s

milkiest rim. I hope,

whoever might overhear this,

that they’re as patient

as you, my sweets,

that they don’t turn away

before they hear how I sent

the smallest emissary

of a kiss stowed in a capsule

of whispered syllables

to hazard those hurling

fires uncharted,

that unnamable dust.

Witch Doctor

She may not got

much teeth, but

if she likes you

she’ll make

your skinniest hen

lay a double-yolked

egg. I knocked

on her door,

still learning to shed

all my muscles

had acquired:

the rigidity of curb,

my step aligned

to the obedience

of crosswalk & yield.

She mixed herself

a bowl of yolk

& ashes—the sticky

pulp of birth

& departure—slicked

her hands with it,

& darkened her body

with a second skin,

exhaling incantations,

slipping in & out

of two languages

like a high heel

& a clog. A breeze

lifted from the lake,

& as she washed,

& tempera dissolved

to the water basin’s

wood, she sang

her dream:

the snake’s

scaled rainbow

coiling the grass

as it tunneled

out of itself,

the clouded membrane

finally torn

from its eyes.

 

Originally Published July 21, 2012

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