blackbird online journal spring 2002 vol.1 no. 1


audio version


Meanwhile Under the Shade Palms

the Turks are inside the egg
      on the backs of elephants.
It’s customary to describe their attire:
      feathered headdresses

shedding quills in ribbons of heat,
      moustaches and slippers
curled fetal at the ends. Like everyone,
      they have their eccentricities:

one’s reliance on his left knee
      which implies a limp he doesn’t have,
another’s thumb-ring flask,
      from which he drains a ruby-colored liquor.

Nothing happens inside the egg:
      the Turks are yoked to their carpets.
One might be missing an arm or a leg,
      admiring a pair of camels
drinking at a trough, the other spying
      on the lopsided love-affair
of the Dowager Empress
      and the Rajah of Ramnagar.
They don’t know it yet,
      but he’s to be assassinated
by a hummingbird.
      Meanwhile under the shade palms,
I write, this is not happening.

Her egg is small, encrusted
      with diamonds. Death watches
through the emerald window.
      It moves against the shell,

through her body’s dense waiting,
      up through the floor,
through the legs of the chair,
      through the skin-covered calves,

up through the arm
      in its pose of righteousness,
through the hand,
      tethered to the wrist,

up through the golden barrel
      of the pistol,
through the empty tunnel
      of the hummingbird bullet—
out into nothing,
      into the nothing
beyond which there is
      only the desert
white as the ocean,
      white as the port of Tangiers
flooded with nightingales.
      Because I write this,

they are singing to the egg,
      and I am singing, too.
That it might carry itself
      to the precipice.

That the Turks might hear it,
      and brace themselves—
as they do—for a moment
      just like this.

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