No. 4 & 5


Rachel Loden  


Nixon is slipping
in and out of consciousness. My father
sputtering in Canada, forty years
after the blacklist— 

We hear there is this love that moves
the world, the sun and stars, 

that makes the apple on the Kazakh bough
fall for a reason. My age, my beast,
my fingered rosary of disbelief . . .

It seems that something red as love
is bleeding through the centuries,

that a reservoir of silky human grease
is oiling those celestial machines.
I don’t want to see the zeroes turn

as on a clock about to wake us
from a murderous dream, confetti falling

helplessly into the sudden past.
I don’t want them to unload the gurney
from the festooned ambulance:

the revelers in all their unforgiving
fury, the new patient in her bandages.


No one is counting in the bedclothes tonight.
No calling cards left on the silver tray.
No stray trolls, snoring beneath a street sign.
No daughter sits down
with a sharp knife and a pomegranate.
Let the old roan whinny in the barley,
the cinder-boy sleep just as his brothers slept.
Nothing is coming.  You can hear it
in the slowness of this St. John’s night
as it eats through the fields and levitates
the barn.  Nothing is waiting
in a suit of mail out in the summer dawn:
no horse, no rider.  No hill of shimmer-glass.
Three golden apples, tumbling . . . then none.


Let’s fly off to Finland, far
from the long arm of Olestra. There

in bog, arctic fen, and sand
are others who may understand 

our epic innocence. Oh, how many
names for snow! and none

with growing market share. Where 
are the snows that make no sense

so early in the morning, when the snow
is blue and blowing on the steppes?

Where is the qanisqineq, 
the ‘snow floating on water’?

We may ask Vigdís Finnbogadóttir,
who’s not a Finn. She may not know,

but she may point us toward
the northern lights. Her aim is true,

her snowshoes always full of snow.
We won’t come back. You come too.


          "Poor thing," said the Lapp woman,
          "you have far to run still. You
          have more than a hundred miles to
          go before you get to Finland; there
          the Snow-Queen has her country house,
          and burns blue lights every evening."
               —The Snow-Queen

The man has a whole Arctic in him,
he has nights in him without darkness,
and days without light,
the man carries with him silences
vaster than forests, candles
burning in gardens of ice.

The love between you was an Arctic berry,
but when you left your country
you knew you had to leave alone.
In the wind, you hear 
the women of his village singing: 
poor bride, the wedding bed is cold.


Looking back, the rowboat at Vladivostok
may not have been your purest inspiration. The Pacific
had turned out to be astonishingly
large, even for an ocean, and you rowed out
finally to some unnamed volcanic island
and just stopped. That was the good part
of that day, knowing that you could stop
yourself from carrying out your will, could still hear
your lover’s voice cut in and out 
although the radio would work only
a little. Now your voice is full
of what it was to leave the Marianas
on that morning, Antares greying in the sky,
the trade winds blowing through the porpoises.


  Last night
  I slipped into your country
  in a dream,
  crossed the border
  into Arctic summer light.

  I had to leave you
  sleeping in America.
  I had to walk, at last,
  into the flashing river
  where you learned to drown,

  I had to sing
  your mother's grief and watch
  the warm rain pull you down.
  I had to see the northern sun 
  burn low on the horizon,

  and the bonfires, midsummer
  altars white at dawn.



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