Ophelia the Prophetess

                    i. Leukosis

Whitening time pours a desert into a • glass. Marbled skulls of bawled eyes rolled • too far back react to being crushed • under denied light, as though a sculpted • hero’s foreskin were to retract at the • threat of shadows demanding something hard to • wrap around, mouths of night swallowing sources • of life. Beads of sweated exertions centuries • past denude statuesque heads fallen from haloes • Michelangelo, with pen in hand, promised in • sonnets, from beds long ago gave his • Davids, images of him every boy was, • and he their princely Jonathan ransoming his • father’s kingly madness with impositions as grand • and impossible as becoming that, immortal. Exposed • •

bonewhite of disappointed flesh dissolves to aluminum • bent opaque, as if losing an empire • overnight. Buried Babylon’s fabled gardens hanging themselves • without leaving a note, tarred to oil • by now. Every lingering wonder wandering about • deserted corridors myth no longer ignites, but • invading powers occupy. Obliterated Edens where perfume • to torch strikes up a fight no • battle of beauties can match, scorching scratched • corneas, wide irises of lightning-streaked turquoise plated • with gilded flakes of phœnix amber fluoresce • but fail to resurrect as pillows of • plucked petals fall through pink slits, paint • struck blushes thick, rethink wounds as entrances, • exits to be welcomed as pain inflicts • •

and refracts dusklit breath. Kohl coalesces coral • splinters death-of-winter crimsoned incandescent indigo as fangs • of moments passed flourish bruises to luminous • movements of memories pressed against walls. Crisping • glass whispered catechism questions tasked with instilling • faith instead stain minds the way filth • stains glass, damage an art to be • mastered by those blessed to have to • endure its passage. Shaken snake-bitten apples of • cheeks creaking teeth harass crack from smiles • toward sighs no one’s left around to • greet or grasp with knowing gasps of • their own. In this chill solitude bereaved • willow branches bereft of remembered secrets over • which to weep withstand repeated tears enough • •

to instill echoing wisdom in this misty-eyed • mystified wilderness tearful Dædalus fauthors defend as • having been their original motive all along. • Which is why, in fact, they have • retraced their descent and ended up back • here again, after tragic acts. Having had • every chance not taken to protect from • fate’s attack every Icarus who’s collapsed, crashed • from his dad’s dutiful hands building obsolescence • in feather-penned hymns they’re planting. Deaths withering • from their beginning, hanging around labyrinth wings • rubbernecking serpentine theories of alibis beyond obscene, • barren witness you define and deny her • here in her own court, here where • those offered the power to stop never • •

bothered at all to stall the plot • others now for dollars gawk and gawp • over and at as this mourner toward • morning struggles to walk. Rock to sand • softening as hearts harden approaching the pool • where she reposes until stirred, Ophelia the • Prophetess whose words, through this tangle of • forest jet earth worms its dank obsidian • soil to purchase. These inventors of escape • scrape every penny to encounter, to have • recourse, when discouraged by the world the • prison bars of which are these lines • of verse ill-equipped to serve description’s purpose, • for how her work heals only those • who seek and hear it can heed.

                    ii. Xanthosis

Yellowing leaves rings, knuckling creases of stains • nicotine on drapes after decades of change • paced path upon paced path generates. Trace • tinctures its fading citrine pride of place • swatched across curled birch swathes papering hollows • of old growth billowing moss drops on. • Negative space walls as blankness does canvas • this grove waiting claims as its own. • An arras of embroidered sepia from branches • rising with arias falling against custard-coloured musk • deserts those who follow its damask here. • Curtains of thick hair, heavy with fog, • lift little spirits here. More oftener, then, • in softening air, birdsong stops abrupt, dead as • thirst quenched when greater need somehow suddenly • •

appears. Astonishment defeating delirium openly secretes awe • or ill ease for those who, in • these parts, parched for thrills encounter stillness • when nearing her perch. Sybilline brooks converge • in a confluence not in any books • those disgraced makers of haste who mistook • flight for freedom now take for granted. • How water sounds once questioned, for downed • sons this high priestess weeps veils to • be shed and spread as carpets of • silk a broad chest covets to cover • itself with. Exposure which kills hovers near • what’s left to confess. Her ears, after • having been filled, well with gifts her • lips, kissed apart by tears, reward sinners.