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Eileen Tabios


Enheduanna Rising in the 21st Century


You wanted to see her seeing herself—You deferred
departure to pace through a city whose sidewalks
memorized the music of footsteps dancing away from

youth into courage—You memorized spaces hollowed
out from air and left behind in anticipation of you—Scarlet
roses lit alleys with perfume someone hoped you would

discern—My scent anticipated twining itself around each
strand of your hair—Once, we stood unknowingly
in the same room of this city of numerous rooms—do you

know now why you looked intently at each face? Pacing,
you turned a corner and felt the joy of Baudelaire’s “infinite
expanse” at the sight of sea-mirrored sky thinned

by two parallel skyscrapers—You opened a bottle of
Apollonio Riserva 1997 anticipating how the wine’s
jammy presence would pucker lips to your huge but hidden

delight—For us, “New York City” transcends geography
for hosting those whose hair whitened prematurely to
write books with titles encompassing Purity, Smoke, Thrall,

Shield, Brush, Mote, Sheen—which is to say, The Encyclopedia
of the Om—You desired each virgin moon as a ruby for
adorning my body—Impatience defined as the empty chair

awaiting us, its expanse the totality of a planet still unexplored—
Pronouns confused me within your embrace: the “She” evolving
into an “I” then back again, flustered before your gaze—You

tasted her in every wine that dripped down your throat. Dr. Loosen
’99 Wehlener Sonnenhur Riesling Beerenauslese: “a bouquet
of slate and roses, a molten flavor of starfruit, honey and

pineapples”—A man revealed a pristine white cuff as he raised
his wrist to check a steel Movado watch—He was seated
in a café, his table next to a haggard poet whose long-emptied

cup refused succor as she kept writing a poem, writing a poem,
writing a poem… How you startled the girl whose poetry elicits
dragon scales from empathetic muscles—An elder named

a fabric Solace for its availability in celery, parchment, black pearl,
crème brulee, persimmon and sage—Ancestor defined as an old
man on the other side of glass rolling brown cigars on a wooden

table, his eyes sunk from the same element that thinned his lips:
a wish for more years—More signs surrounded the man with
curdling milk in his eyes—signs signifying nothing relevant to

an embattled world or self: Macamundo, Push, Hoyo de Monterrey,
Cohiba, Partagas, Excalibur, Davidoff, Zino—Irrelevant beauty
sourced in England with its glazed chintzes bearing sprays of rose,

peony, hydrangea and gladiola—names evoking country houses:
Bowood, Amberley, Sissinghurst, Sutherland—Nostalgia defined
as linens called Lamorna or Serge Antique that offered themselves

not as black or white but as toast and oyster—Sweetness defined
as a tapestry fabric called Marley from whose complex greenery
small red blooms occasionally and always tastefully burst—You

opened a gilded door on Park Avenue for a silver organza bag.
Nestled in tulle netting were Lindor truffles in “all available flavors:
milk, dark, white, amaretto, hazelnut, peanut butter and mint”—

Optimism defined as “when sky turns blue, it becomes as physical
as an organ”—Wake from a dream of white heat to see sun-
washed walls forming a room where silk and lace sculpted a milk

puddle on terra cotta floors—I remember the rest of Greece, its
national heat waiting… We suckled wine from each other’s lips,
then bit, then swallowed earth, leather, currants, gravel, tobacco,

oak and plums to release the same voluptuous tears familiar to
Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning who loved through 573
letters before bearing a son they nicknamed with much affection,

“Pen”—A widening through Germany‘s landscape of Vilseck: an
open tent with huge farmers in huge overalls with huge accents,
huge bellies, huge biceps and huge red cheeks. I failed to finish

one stein of beer (it was huge!). The assault of huge platters
gleaming with huge, overstuffed  sausages. For an entire afternoon,
my eyes sought consolation in the orange-gold, foam-topped liquid

in my glass, the same radioactive shade of lightning bolts I
witnessed over Kauai—Beauty dislocates—What did I wait for as
I sipped tea with a sculptor absentmindedly rearranging objects

on a table to alter their relationships in and with space? Loss,
then Desire defined as a 12th century Loire Valley chateaux
containing a mirror that had been left outdoors one winter

to weather into “an appropriate cloudiness”—You fell asleep in my
skin to dream—You dreamt I saw myself seeing myself. I saw
the flowers of my forgotten birthland: damas de noche, named after

a long-haired woman afflicted into paleness by the verb of feel-ing—



Flagging the Empty Flagpole


You were the altar that made me stay—Spine willingly
bent for a stranger’s whip--Clutched the wet mane
of a panicked horse—The night was unanimous—

The erasure that captured the threshold of consciousness—
One begins marking time from a lover’s utterance
of Farewell—A faux jasmine insists it is the scent of gold—

Even a boor pauses before a Rembrandt portrait—Mom
began to age when she began looking at the world through
heartbreaking resignation—Using color to prevent encounters

from degenerating into lies—Furious flamenco with vultures
under a menopausal sun—I was not an immigrant; I was
simply myself who lacked control at how the world formed

outside the “Other” of me—Rust taught me how bats operate
through radar—Plain bread can clear an oenophile’s palate—
Her neck thinned until I could count the ropes stretched

along her throat—Admiring women who refuse to paint their lips—
Dust motes trapped in a tango after the sun lashed out a ray—
Bliss deep within an ascetic’s eyes as he wandered with

a beggar’s bowl—Your betrayal forever marks me like a heart
’s tattoo blossoming painfully against an inner thigh—Limits
inevitable from mortality—Detachment can include; detachment

enabled a white rattlesnake to penetrate my dreams—The protect
-ion of his diamonds—Colors of a scream: the regret of crimson
the futility of pink, the astonishment of brown—To chafe at eating

food earned by someone else, each swallow bequeathing an
ineffable with the demeanor of ice—Your favorite color was water—
Picasso’s Sleeping Nude, 1907: admirable for its lack

of sentimentality—Ache for fiction that does not chasten days—
A good day defined as eating a red apple while strolling
through white snow—New Mexico, where adobe walls were

soothed by brown paper bag lanterns glowing from lit candles—
Relief Bliss defined as the liberating anonymity conferred
by travel: Mindanao, Berlin, Melbourne, Amsterdam, Istanbul …

become hours requiring no count—To become my own sculpture
when I crawled on a floor to see color from different angles—
Astonishment over a block of grey metal swallowing light—

The cocoon hung from a tree like a tender promise (I forgot
deferring judgment)—Obviating memory for a higher purpose—
Both perception and imperceptibility carry a price—

To be one of Michelangelo’s slaves surging out of stone—History
defined as the World War II concentration camp where amnesiacs
tortured by tying together the legs of pregnant women—

Deflections enable a semblance of progress—Recognitions:
a white bird against a grey sky the same gesture I painted
for years as a single brushstroke of turquoise—Feeling you

in the air against my cheek—Your body against mine
introduced the limits of sunlight’s expanse—Long for a sky
without horizon; instead, accede to the eye’s clamor against

the opposite of claustrophobia—Jade’s cousin: the green
of Antarctic berg ice a lost emerald rib broken and floating
away from a maternal continent—Addiction to Duende for

its intimacy with savagery—As an exposed nerve, you
greet mornings—Weariness defined as wishing to be pale—
Sky so lurid it was nonreverberative—To memorize

the marks of animals pawing as they hunt—Color has always
been a narrative—Preserving the capacity to feel you
in the breeze lifting my hair from their shyness—




from In the Depths of the Stone Mirror


The interior, from the beginning, was stone—Stone
the compromise defining absence of void—When a stone
hand cracks, its pieces will not be caught—A roof tile flew

and slate sliced my cheek: blood on fingers after brushing
against cheek’s glimmer of bone—How effectively pain
obviates abstractions—Yes crackle of light, dream of icicles

and the unpredictability of angles cut by any creature chased
for its nutritious heart—O maddened sunlight into which hostages
emptied long-held fears as they erupted from a robbed bank—

That thing unidentifiable, though it evoked pink pearls luminescent
among a gutted goat’s entrails—We were swollen underground
with rain as certain elements erased their absence:


Aftermath a stone watching itself like a poem in a forest,
covered fretfully by ancient moss, its legacy to be only
a stone toe with orange paint long faded (though it lingers

in someone’s memory)—Someone shrouded herself
in white linen: a poem invisible but stubbornly transparent
until flesh became stone—The moving prop of clouds failing

to soften the edges of dark architecture—Authentic sunsets
call for wine—Paint transforming canvas to skin; when
the paint can is empty, then will innocence reveal itself—

We agreed to toss away the blindfold to empower our ears
beyond mere holes for burning stones tossed our way
by a cruel race—Or stones tossed our way by a venal

dictatorship—Or stones tossed our way by an incompetent
health care system—Or stones tossed our way by a passive
bureaucrat wielding power over the education of the child

we will never have—Or stones tossed our way by that obscene
combination of trust fund baby and hedge fund billionaire—
Or stones tossed our way by the demands of poverty: how

poverty paradoxically narrows the impoverished focus into
the small, then petty, then brutish—Yes absence of green
as my bandaged wing swung to break stalactites—A mirror

-ed face only partially owns its reflection—Flying fish are
always wide-eyed always breathless always look unbelieving—
Yes long-haired women exist, but outside the frame as

has been reality for centuries—Yes the sun’s stare becomes
tolerable through the cotton eyelets of another generation’s
apron—Yes ziggurat tattooed on an inner thigh, an area where

inscription must have surfaced with anguish, then desperation,
then a hymn long-forgotten as I’d forgotten how to attend
anyone’s church—A body drowns in light as a hand writes—

eyes leak flames—“Matte vs. Glass”—Chill of kissing the wrong
man: O lifetime of pearls!  Anonymous artist’s iron soldiers
erupting amidst Midwestern wheat—How a reflection manifests

loneliness or holiness but never both at the same time—
The wave: its singularity easily fractured by sunlight’s blades—
When stars became asterisks to matters best left in the dark

(I forgot the tirelessness of shame)—The mental is a muscle—
The forgotten bagpipe morphing into a discarded lung
atop the asphalt of your aborted road—Once, I was woken

by a whisper to see a red chair tipped on its side on a white
shag carpet: when they finally found you, it was the heart
of winter and the only witnesses were stripped trees bent by

old winds, their muteness ancient and forever—Hiraeth defined
as rain of black crows plummeting from the bullets of hidden
hunters with soft hands—Constellations don’t sing, don’t cooperate,

are forever on a pedestal—The stairway descending past concrete
muffled but still sang our song—Once, I danced—en compas!—into
a story I thought belonged to me. I became a character in it, giving

its narrative all the years demanded from my life. But the story began
long before I entered it. I forgot
I was only dancing flamenco—




Zoo that retired all cages—Gorilla’s fingerprint forming
the outline of your face—Ceasing our hurtle through
the fragile chill of the Milky Way—You turned time

into eternity by waiting at the gate—We are all born—
Salt of expired matchsticks—Unfamiliarity with the edges
of my body—Ending evenings with lightning bugs in jars—

Lapis lazuli pebbles harvested from deer manure—
Place became person—The sodden tissue balled up
into a small, dead bird—Unreasonable ghost of a ghost

who’d persuaded the world its name is “Unicorn”—
Complexion forged from miles and miles of bad and bad
roads—Healing face blindness by introducing context—

Incomplete narratives of remnants not yet borne away
by birds, tiny animals, wind … Belligerence defined
as surfers with white ponytails—Someone’s holograph—





Copyright © Eileen Tabios, 2016.