By the time Columbus jumped down into the lazy
lapping waves of the new world, she was no longer new.
She was at least old enough to buy a packet
of thin, white cigarettes, that had thinner
gold stripes and emitted even thinner wafts
of smoke. (So favored by thin, pale old men
with curled mustaches who thought smoking
made them look regal and tempered their leers.)
By the time the rest of us arrived—burned red by the sun
over the ocean and the atmosphere in our
mothers’ wombs—she was nearing middle age,
but appeared to be much older. In the hospice
we stood back, afraid to breathe, as her soul
curled its wings, touched the tips together, and then
took off. She knew, like mothers know,
that sometimes putting things on the high shelf
is the only way to keep them safe. Now
the same water laps at her skirts as before,
no cleaner for having been purified by
moving through us. Down throats, back over tongues,
out of eyes and pores and pissed onto fires.
There is nothing that touches her that we have not touched.
Tendrils of water tug and sigh: ou-rs, ou-rs, ou-rs.
One man steps back and notices the frame,
askew from the shuddering mass of eyes that have,
dully lovingly curiously hatefully stared slipped
over across it. He thinks to fix it now would be
a tragedy. The dust collected around it
would leave the wellworn outline on the wall
as a reminder. Instead he jumps up, stamps his feet until
the walls shake and the frame tilts its head,
concedes that he’s there and that its seen him seeing.
Satisfied he’s left his mark, he goes outside
to smoke one of his thin, white cigarettes, lighting it
with her burning center, as another year of
lapping waves climbs her skirts for want of anything
else to do. It will manifest.