Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2018  Vol. 17 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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All those ways we have of knowing,
how divine: eggs and axes and lumps
on the head, wax settling on water,
yarrow sticks tossed in China,
visions in mirrors, smoke, and whispered
words from shells or words spelled
through the Ouija board, which told
someone like Roman Emperor Valens what, exactly?
All that scrying to discover war or pillage
or poison, to find out that the end
would come, would come no matter,
and the old dowsers who stagger with their twitching
ash or willow forks already know that.

My astrologer tells me my husband’s taken over
my reading—that our trouble with water,
any trouble with water is his
and that sometimes a reading becomes a premonition—
all this over the phone, and she also tells me
monkeys break into her house,
and illegal immigrants too, who eat her peanut butter,
set off the echoing halo of alarm.
Wouldn’t you, too, not understand today
if you could look into some space beyond? She was a gift
from a friend for my birthday,
one who might have let slip the flooding.

So, we discover the day ahead
has pearl moments. After midnight
the neighbor will be between the houses
up to no good. Money will arrive; a bill,
large, will descend from the IRS. Will
the day be steady? Tell us to mail
the package, visit the florist, unpack?
That our peanut butter will be safe,
but an argument is against the horizon,
your love will say something not to be
taken back. The night will be short.
The postman visits, says, Don’t
give up, today, friend. Not today.

The finding is in the everyday and not in albino
pigeons or some kind of eclipse. But who could wear
emergency every day, the sharp cymbal
of swift error? That the things we touch know
us and our trouble, our loss.

Like my husband’s ex-mother-in-law who cursed him
with Jesus—praying that he and the ex would never
be happy with anyone except each other.
Then there was a Chinese woman in the mall who charged,
speaking a fast language of accusation. She pointed
at our daughter’s gypsy looks, then at me, blonde and fair.

Then there’s a feeling I cannot write out for fear
that on the page it will come true.

And we do have trouble with water—
trouble crossing it, water bills, water meters, leaks, floods.
The astrologer keeps asking, trying to find the chart
my husband interrupted. Fire, which is me, is surrounded
by air she says—him, our daughter, my mother. And the water
that he brings in. I’m an island of fire, she explains.

After two a.m., two houses up, I can see our neighbors.
What’s their curse? And would they be able
to name it before they’re told? Fire
came through, and their house had to be rebuilt.
They are outside too. I can see the burn
of candles past the brown sheers that hang
on their front porch. She holds scissors
because she’s cutting his hair. He sits shirtless,
and her legs are bare in the heat. I can predict
the pattern of hair that rings him—little crisscrosses
to be read before the broom or the wind, little piles
of straw so light they are almost imagined.  

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