Tonight the lares have eaten their offerings.
The sweetbreads are gone, black kidneys
Infantine and nacred as mollusk-eggs. The smoke
Circles and begins to clear.
When the finger points toward us, we answer,
When the eagle opens its mouth,
When the fly sings to a honeycomb,
Emptied by plague, the hive scattered with bodies,
Let us not forget the wolf, his last rite.
Let us not forget the due.
These animals bode well for the new year:
We will begin this again and again.
The violence has congealed to a horn, a buck’s
Long cartilagineous tube:
It must be the beginning of abundance.
The swarm lifts and banks from the hills;
Everyone is coming to witness me
Coming apart: I have made myself so edible,
So extraordinarily meat.
—The way you spoke to me just now, I almost heard
The murmur of insects, preparing a new hegemony.
We break the glass in the green drum.
The beetle swims in the eye of day.
Time marries me inside myself.
Our witch is lighting the fires; her hut smokes,
Sending up its sole grey plume.
I am homeless. I live everywhere.
The forest yawns open like the ocean, a green grave
Where I could be an intaglio locket,
Birds singing between my bones.
The water-snake slithers in the palace hall.
The blue-white tiles fall off the wall,
Breaking, breaking the Delft plate.
At evening we fished out the boot under the dock
Scratched our heads and turned home
While the beetles went on breeding there in the boards.
A cold yellow light on the cobblestones, you
Stumble from the bar like a wayward star
Fallen off its chart. October, the darkness
Takes your temperature, pressing a cool moon
Sliver to your fevering brow. You speak the moon,
Hieroglyphs of jade dropping from your stone lips.
Night rises out of the river like a bad Aphrodite:
Jet, burnished as a rococo tomb.
She walks you home, coyly taking an arm,
Dripping her curled locks over your shoulders
As if tonight all your kisses were hers. She whispers
A name into your auricle that turns its cartilage
To bone; she nudges your ball of yarn down still another
Tangle of lit alleys. You pass by the deluging world
Greying in its watery obsolescence, light-strafed,
Where cars sleep the dreamless sleep of steel
And fountains purl like minxing cats, a stirring
Avalanche: the sound fills up the silence like a bowl.
Blue-grey pigeons shatter the air—ungainly,
Deprecating, fatly hurrying to their sick moults.
A thousand minuets lie coiled in a pomander ball
Raised in the pale yellow hall of an Austrian queen;
A thousands minuets lie under the sea
And you too will be one of these, you have only
To find the house in this long row of painted doors
With your number. But the hours spin you on their fortune-wheel
And you walk on, as if one thin bone finger were
Pressing you, a chess-piece through the white and black
Squares of these vacant streets; you walk as the genius
Of yourself—as a shooting star: instant, irresponsibly beautiful,
Without issue. And yet if the good monk should find you,
Guide you up the stair to his tower room, holding a taper
To show you the star chart of all your fatal incidents,
Your sketched-out combinations and imprecations,
Your storied path like ice-skates on the frozen lake,
By morning it would all, all, as always, be forgotten.
Monica Ferrell is a Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. Her work has appeared in the Paris Review, the Boston Review, and elsewhere.