Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2011 v10n1
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You know a symbol when you see
one: nothing
in the world so blue
as the blue narcissus, the dark
blue narcissus nodding
from the field’s ragged edge.

Behind, the endless orchard, the blood-
hot plums flooding themselves.

In the photograph, her eyes
are shut, her face
a magnesium flame.

Behind, her shadow,
face down in the grass.

In the beginning there had been
no God, or God
was everywhere, she doesn’t know.


Her mother will keep the house.
Her father takes the crystal, saying
I intend to do a lot of entertaining.
The fire stumbling in the wind.
The back pond scabbed with early ice.
It’s true the earth
split open like a seed.


She sits in her father’s study
rereading the Oedipus Cycle.
The air is calfskin, pumice.
The page is lightly foxed.
He watches her read.
You know a symbol when you κτλ.

Korē, the Virgin,
mistress of the dead
tongues, pulls back her hair,
puts on a turtleneck.
The Oedipus Rex is a veritable
treasure-house of grammatical peculiarities.


Back for the summer, she sees her mother
has lost some weight, bought some clothes.
No mother grieves long for a daughter.
Around her, throngs of men,
wallets full of sacrifice.

Her mother buys a pregnancy test.
All things come into being
through strife—cell
divorcing cell, the flesh
dividing against itself.
Who are we now?

Two nights later, she herself
(herself) will lie
in a humid grove, half-drunk,
a slip of a boy mouthing
adjectives at her. She is X, she is Y.
Goddess of corn, Queen of the dead.


Fall once more, the cell divides again.
She sits in her father’s study
rereading the Oedipus Cycle.
You know a symbol when you see one.
X, Y, always here, there.  end

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