Zoë Gabriel
New Year’s Day Till Christmas Evening


Blue and clear,
as though someone were about to serve bread and salt
or lay out delicate tea cups on it.
With such a sky I can believe
what they say about the promise
and terror of a new world.
I can guess why they replay
the pastoral miracle,
the wonder of the kingly gifts,
in and out of the silent death-row march of years.
I really can
hope for something rich and strange.

There is time enough in January,
and land enough in watery March,
and food and warmth enough in the cold months
to hope against experience,
against providence,
against bitter judgment
that I too can root, and sprout, and fade.

My arms are full of submerged islands,
waterlogged meadows, rocky heights,
all the land I carry
like the things you pack up because they might come in handy,
zip up your luggage and lug it around, willy-nilly,
even as it messes up your balance
during slippery channel crossings.

A nervous and fertile land,
rich and sharp like my mother’s preserves.
The land of my scarves, candles,
etiquette tips, sundry quotes, unread volumes,
my sharp-shooting skills and arid fancies,
the land that clutters up my bed,
seeps through my shoes,
gets stuck between my teeth,
all mine,
the gift of the fourth king.

My hands are cold and raw, like clams,
and my pockets are full of earth
as I glance at accidental windows
in this inordinately mild winter dusk:
a portent of change
both climatic and climactic,
or so they say.

The evidence is flimsy.
All I see are curtains and lamps
and the occasional fairy light,
and I hope, I really do,
that somebody is finding joy in them
at least for a while,
that they keep the will-o’-the-wisps at bay,
that they muffle the ambulance sirens
and the things that bay at the moon

as I shove my fingers into the earth
and follow the will-o’-the-wisps
all the way home.




October Orphans


Our house beautiful:
jars full of eyeballs
like pale grapes, winter preserves,
furniture made from our roots
so tangled not even Hitler
could unearth them.

We are the dry receptacles
in the Australian desert,
a footfall on Mars.
The monsoon, when it comes, will erase us
like the grains of salt
left at the bottom of a pretzel bag.

This is the season
when the body folds in on itself,
the mind refuses to see, to connect,
the world scatters like missed clues,
fingers and toes recall
what it’s like to be cold
all the time, all the time.

Words
can stab as well as cauterize,
make a simple kiss into a carnival,
render the greatest horror trivial
and repetitive as a pimple.

I would chop off my hair and eyelashes,
break my arms to pieces
and carry them in my teeth,
cut off my heels and toes, scrub floors
for something worthier than me,

but not for this love,
not for this love.