excerpt – The Eyes of a Flounder

The Eyes of a FlounderFrom the Next Weird Sister

It matters not that my ankles are shapely
and graceful, or that once, I remember
it well, they said I had a splendid head
of hair—perhaps the loveliest in all of Scotland.
One need not be a beldam to be
a witch. It takes only a desperate, malignant

need to which there can be no
relinquishment. Be saucy and over-bold.
Your charms enough will change you.
For now the sun is setting, and our clan meets
again. Here on the heath we spread the spoils
of our battle and offer them to vacant

sable skies. The fair men have called foul
fair. And the foul men have called fair
foul. The fog is lifting, but the filth in the air remains.
Sometimes I wish I were a birth-strangled babe.
Then at least my finger would have a price. And I
might be understood or might understand the unknown

powers. But I was destined to live
and am driven to accomplish deeds without names.
Sisters, come away. When labor is
too great—then is when a birth occurs.
I, mother of maggots, I lay the eggs of my brain
in night visions; there to incubate, molt and corrode,

there to pardon and poison all entrails.
And what of you? It matters not that your neck
is slender—or you, that your breasts are warm and firm.
You, with that raging void—you too can be
a midnight hag. It occurs to us all, at one time
or another, when a broken heart is the gift
and the wound, sin can be a soothing salve.

The Next Weird Sister Loses Light

In our house there is more than one bedroom.
Chaste, we insist we are chaste, and yet we
grope on hands and knees for what will illume,
while corners increase exponentially.
These nights no one makes a cry. There is no
trimming. The moon goes out. Fences barb our
house. We can find no door, no exit, though
the mastiffs’ mouths enlarge while they devour
our oily sins again. Darkly we call
to footsteps we can hear are out of sight.
“Are you a groom?” At night’s middle a small
blackness answers, “There are only ifs.” All
of us rise and stagger to make aright
our lamps. So blinded but for oil, we fall.

Celibacy at Forty-two
(I)

Dawn is release
from another night
single while black birds
gather in the fields
and eat and chatter
of better meals and worse.
And single, I listen.
Away—beyond black birds,
beyond fields—
I am soothed by a sound
of cars in dim light:
the sound of people
going somewhere,
or of people who have been.

Dog Star

Panting at Orion’s heel with an eye out
for Lepus. At your helical setting,
farmers sow beans, lucern, millet;
at your rising, you flood
the Nile. Luminous and serious,
heralding sunrise to the east,
light becomes visible when you set.
In and out of the Milky Way,
your baleful barking dries
up the body. Canicular days, you bicker
in a stellar blue and white.
Scorning, tremulous wave
of light, we cut the heart of a fawn-
colored dog at your festival three
times a year—to ensure the blossom
of fruit, to avert mildew and rust,
to hallow our fat harvest. What
others mistake for a silent sky
is the trough of the wave of your howl.

The Lover Freed

When the Beloved whistled the thin icy notes,
the Lover freed the impounded dogs,
each with a rhinestone collar.
When the Beloved walked the dogs,
the Lover howled verbs at the moon,
conjunctions dropped like falling stars.
When the Beloved begged for silence,
the Lover unstrung the harps
and used the strings for fishing line.
When the Beloved filleted the salmon,
the Lover painted the barbecue red,
spilling paint throughout the yard.
When the Beloved mowed the lawn,
the Lover mosaiced a birdbath
with porcelain blue wedding plates.
When the Beloved identified all the birds,
the Lover wrote with a leaky pen
the names of the birds in every book.
When the Beloved hung out the laundry,
the Lover set out seven pails,
catching each wet crystal drop.
When the Beloved froze the water,
the Lover took an ice pick
and chiseled a thin piccolo.
When the Beloved whistled the thin icy notes,
the Lover freed the impounded dogs,
each with a rhinestone collar.

Sophia

When the bread molds,
Sophia will come, wandering
under a leprous moon.

We will erase the open books,
the crowded margins,
when Sophia comes.

When Sophia comes,
she will tame Palamabron’s
mad horses—and nothing will change.

She will come with her
ten thousand infants,
each of them cut in two.

And when Sophia comes,
I will comb her gray hair,
hold her thin head to my chest.

She will ask my forgiveness,
singing the song she teaches,
in a language I never heard,

in a language I never knew.