No. 8-9


Jessica Harkins  

     He wrote music to texts he no longer understood—
     in the same way
     we express something through our lives
     in the humming chorus full of mistaken words.

                           —Baltics, V., Tomas Tranströmer

I.  Today

A house springs up from the earth,
and rises higher, like a kite on the wind.
Only by tracing the shapes of its rooms
do I near its place of injury.
Is this where I hum and whittle
to quell an ache?  Wind-house?
Your frame presses until its shape
appears in the letters I have drawn
to try and show you as you are.
I will make amends, I say.
Sometimes I suspect you are a room
in my life that is rearing its head
like a flower from a stem,
but I have never lived in your rooms,
in the wind-houses that call to me
until my mouth rests against a wound.
You speak of rooms grown far from you;
in time I hope to unite you in one breath.

II.  Yesterday

Sheets are billowing on the clotheslines,
flapping, and filling taut, as the wind comes strong
and enormous.  The heads of giant kings,
queens, and grotesques are tottering on legs 
too spindly and small; they bow and dip,
about to come loose and go rolling off 
through the weeds and new grass in the lawn.
During the rest of year I live in the features
of these faces; their plains and craggy growths                 
are buried, part of the landscape                                     
of my internal geography.  They bear the signs                       
of the sudden changes in the house’s 
orientation and its distances.
They were formed by fickle wells,           
floods squirming in the ditches, and petrified,
yawning ravines; but in March the cloth         
is pulled from me as I distend the sheets,   
and their faces become part of the outside     
world: brightened and full, nearly buoyant.      
When I am lonely these faces confirm        
a judgment; when I am happy          
they whisper caution.  When I grieve,            
the faces bob like gondolas              
tied to the docks in a lagoon.    
For long months the cloth              
has been growing, spilling onto 
the floors in my thoughts.  Perhaps 
it is more bearable to sew faces 
out of fear, to hang them on the threads 
of a mobile, each the curtain 
over an open window, the veil
of an inarticulate guest.  Or, to consider
them rounded and hard, 
as the remains of city statues that seem,
in their gazes, to have seen something. 

They are like Highwaymen, those happy,
drunken dancers, walking home arm-in-arm
on the roadway, growing horns,
hooked beaks, or merrily upturned eyes,  
unwilling to tell me, when I ask,
if their costumes
are how they really look.



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