Prologue: Waters That Know Our Names
My departure instigated his exit,
Longer, slower, more deliberate, the way
Of the sensitive, thoughtful and reflective,
Even through heartbreak.
Storm clouds from the era of our grandmothers
Gathered over us, blowing in from the sea,
Mothers from the hills where on the lowest klines
They’d lounge and listen
Then turn to night and a harvest of sorrows,
Pack for tomorrow to leave the land of our
Ancestors, exiled to waters that have seen
Us a thousand times.
I. A Foreign Stillness
i. Fragments of Icarus
Let god folly and father fracture matter
Not, this immortalization, for us, a curse,
Constellations for others to navigate
By what to avoid.
There was a great voice in my head the morning
After my death that woke me from sleep, whispered
Into my ear, Get up, go—go write, urging
Me to confession—
To remember it not as a failure of flight,
Not for the fall, for the end of that life,
But for the tender years of sweetest youth spent with
You, my childhood beast—
For treasures received, hidden in the garden,
Passing stories as we gathered wax and feathers,
Telling the tale and untelling it
Soon as it was told.
Found then at last is this, our first stanza of youth,
An autobiography of imprisonment,
The metronomic distance between arrival
In the slatted daybreak, I witnessed, peeking,
Shadows in the garden and increments of
Color, light, and sound, which crept between the
Attention I gave.
Pulled by currents unknown, I held the shutters
Closed at night and opened them at morn, my mood
Regulated by how much light I allowed
Into the cold room—
Laying out ideas there upon twin beds,
Pushed together at night and boldly turned down
For a harvest inside of future dreams, for
What was yet to come.
In the future, I will remember this:
The blessing of the fleet, a foreign stillness,
Cousins to nostalgia and melancholy,
The passing lanterns
Of the night fishermen who poled and prayed
To hook a dream or spear a light under the
Suggestion of stars, once crossed, crossed again,
Sewing up the sky.
And in the future, I will think of him along
A cartography of where his hands have passed,
Maps drawn on silk, hidden in coat pockets and
Of his quiet stealth.
I marked days and a catalog of lesser
Innovations on the wall in an attempt
To record our evenings and think nothing to
Look upon them now—
In the sea, more than before us, and in that
Effort to notate what had occurred in the
Night, more than nearer your promises, more than
The whispering waves—
More than Helios to hypnotize, with wings
Or sails, testing, if the gods did not come, we would
Become the gods, through flight and hubris, with a
Harness for the wind.
But our alchemy gained little from it,
Our movement toward freedom, plunged, swallowed by
Seagulls or marauded by marlin, angels
That swim, fish that fly.
Along the margin of the boundary layer,
Water chased wind, coupled currents clashed to
Appease the appetites of too many in
And your soul’s energy, overharvested,
How I cried to leave you there, screaming in your
Labyrinth, and me aft, behind in the tailwind
Of my father’s flight!
Such craftwork, left like a plaything for a child,
His carelessness, a sword, and in the future
I will think of him thus, a father asleep,
A mentor surpassed—
A prisoner once caught, now a child drowning in
The sea. It was written by my own hand
Upon scrolls of the deep, this very love, this
Passion for falling.
ii. Last Days
Fraternal order, their quiet solidarity,
Did not dissuade them from separating us,
Commencing a dialogue while dividing
His profile from mine.
Worse, they blocked my view of his bruises, a rag
Held to his head, of his swollen eye, and the
Cuts on the bridge of his nose as he nodded
To sleep in his hands.
I came to hold his head and wondered how
He arrived here, pleading to keep him awake,
But soon enough, left him as before on
The path he knew well.
Resting yesterday, I dreamed him walking through
The garden. I dreamed him, dreaming me, now as
I walk the sullied streets and ravaged pathways,
Observing his work
Of the night before, and though feeling sorrow for
His state of mangled fleece and outrage,
I understand that I am the one alone,
The price of our rich bounty, this long famine:
Paramours of shadow, a brother taken,
A father’s right to rule and his bequest of
Carnage, your birthright.
Each step I take without you, the contours of
My own rage are softened by lamplight against
The work you were enlisted for, to enact the
To be at one with each one buried, below,
Finding your scribbled notes and reflections left
Above on mantles, my wings struggling with the
Altitude and wind—
Dividing up our living space, finding fault
Lines along the floor, holes in all the walls,
Inaccessible geographies, oases,
Beyond the green threshold where we once lived,
Riches you hid, and me street facing, trapped in
The remains of what we allotted in the
Divvying of our lives—
Moving in an arid desert full of bones,
Sinking in a quenchless ocean, felled to bones,
Calcifying in the ruins of our prison palace,
Your maze built of bones.
To the others, note, a redacted affair,
Illegible on the evening his sea chest,
A heart once open, broke at once, livid white,
Whistling to himself—
Tottering and lingering on the taste of
So little company. He cried out, but he
Would not speak when spoken to, and so
I left him alone
With his unruly tongue and with his sour
Disposition. It did us good all the salt
We saved that summer, the taste of ambrosia
On our purple lips—
The summer before the gardener brought his
Note to me in the shady afternoon,
But knowing his occupation until dawn,
I held my peace.
The investigation of the late season
Was like a sunset, with his hot temperament
Changing with the changing daylight, and as the
Days became shorter
So did his shadow shrink until it cast no
Longer around the edges of the tower.
At first cold, he was no more though the story
Went from first to last.
It belongs to me now, forever, and only
Thereafter in the silhouette of the
Night theater, all these riches unseen,
This love, unlifted.
A father’s word turns with the tides, coos like a
Child in adult conversations, listens to the
Protest of peacocks and renders their language
To us decoded.
Those he sheltered in the gathering, clipped and
Caged, reached for their freedom with talons sharp
Enough to arrest creation from Creator
Before his work was done
And the cruel task complete, to make something of
The air and condemn it to the ground. Later,
Seagulls made nests in each corner he blockaded,
Until fledging, fell.
I waited to enter through an arch along
The breezeway, the one window I had into
A gentleness in his heart, a story for each
Feather we gathered—
Learned of him in shadow, tales told as asides
To lighten the tasks we toiled in winter, until
The nest was full again in spring, one less death
In the family.
The old skittered ’round the garden wall
Protecting the new life so painstakingly earned.
The honey on our lips from bees who cross-
Wind along back roads
Inoculated us against the pollen
That dropped along the ash’s hemline, blood of
Heaven, manna of stars, dead-fallen here in
A snowstorm of spring.
It kept us running on a river of tears,
Covered our conveyance with a fine yellow caul,
An unruined world that held both the venom
And the antidote.
In the oration of heroes and gods,
We were immortal in their way, could survive
Our disasters, pass through our deaths. We had the
Resilience of youth.
Floating along the wake of water, beneath
Stern warnings, we towed as near to shore as we
Could muster, careful not to run aground of
Seven or fourteen or more, anything
Less and we were undone in our own way,
Lasciviously bothered by the sport of
The hunt for those here—
Clouding the waters with wantonness and a
Fuzziness over their own potential, with
Nature upon their shoulders, on this ground where
Mortal men stand fixed—
The tiny troops forced to proceed, caution for
Fear, their mission before them cast to the ground,
The sentinels of the labyrinth’s reveries
From which we set sail
From the docks of prospect, running up the masts
Of first discovery with something later
For our pains. In the sea his voice obeyed the
Breath of the moment
And swallowed up him whom the gods made to play
Therein, a creature that I have loved as my
Own, and on that day, he spread his wings and flew
Out over the sea.
vi. Apotheosis of Ganymede
His teachings rendered us neophytes, budding
In desire, clinging to an arm with
Aspirations vital as a row, for the
Fight, wrestling our own—
For my own conundrum, the propositions
Of Helios and Poseidon, revealed now
By one Icarus of Crete and Candia,
Who held a monster—
Not tall nor strong but beautiful against the
Specimen of Ganymede, honored for
Effecting the perfect proportions idealized in
Lifted top to tail to Zeus, he would what I
Could not, such futility, resisting the
Seductions of rising and falling, courting the
Depths of sky and sea.
They rest unevenly, canyons from peaks, the
Underworld written not against heaven’s height
But for descent, not a god wish but for death,
A new beginning—
To destroy us while we create them again
In our own image and occupy their seats
For some time. It is in the descent again
We thus reconcile—
And not in the apotheosis of the
Cupbearer to quench a jealous god, but in
The passing of the mortal and monster
Back into god form—
Given wings at the beginning or end to
Escape this tower on feathers or fins, not
As it was prognosticated to us, we
Rose in the gloaming.
vii. Summer Son
Pesce volante, its entrails left gutted,
Impaled, skewered, then finished, retractable,
The separation of flesh, the skeleton
Of the flying fish—
A foreign stillness suggested a change,
Smashed like rotting apricot, tasted honey from
Lying lips, felt the sour circumference of
He was your grandfather after all, beaming
His all upon us, watching each step we took,
Luring me to kiss his face in the sky, then
Setting on my fall.