Porcelain bust from artist Ah Xian’s collection, China China (1999)
“The River Twice,” by Kathleen Graber
The Love of Jesus is a thrift warehouse on the south side of town. Everything
inside is a dollar. On Mondays & Fridays, everything is fifty cents.
A stormy afternoon in June & I drift for hours down the aisles: bread machines
& coffee pots. Shirts
& shoes. Teetering stacks of mismatched dinnerware.
I am studying a cup whose crackled glaze is the pale blue-green of beach glass.
Two lions chase one another around its fragile eternity,
the way the lover pursues the beloved on the ancient urn, their manes & legs
washed in a preternatural purple & gold.
Behind me, a woman tells her son William
to get up from the floor so that she can measure him against a pair
of little boys’ jeans. When he doesn’t rise, she tells him she is going to start
counting. She says she is only going to count to two.
When I look over,
he is already on his feet at silent attention, his arms outstretched from his sides.
I live in an attic apartment above two women who have been unemployed
as long as I have known them.
This week the last of their benefits
has been unexpectedly terminated by the state.
A drop in the overall number
of jobless automatically triggers the cessation of extensions, the letter
that comes in the mail explains.
Outside, thunder cracks. Later, the streets
will be full of limbs.
Heraclitus believed that in the beginning
creation simply bubbled forth, an inevitable percolating stream—logos,
both reason & word—issuing from a source unseen. Sometimes
I feel a sudden sorrow, as though my own emotions were a room
I’d forgotten why I entered.
My mother struck me only once—
for refusing to put on my coat. I was four years old & she had been scrubbing
motel rooms all day.
I’d fallen asleep in the dark on a low shelf
in the linen closet beside the boxes of little pink soaps.
Today, that shelf
is gone & the great white polar caps
are melting. At Kasungu National Park
in Malawi, a drought has caused the lions to turn on the rangers
whose job it is to protect them.
Our skulls are chipped bowls, broken
globes, we plunge into the flow.
Heraclitus, whom the crash of time has left
in fragments, saw in the cosmos a harmony of tensions.
the lyre, he wrote, & the bow. The store radio plays satellite gospel.
A hymn with the chorus Every moment you shall be judged is followed
by one in which the choir shouts Praise! Stand up and be forgiven.
Laurie Anderson, “Ramon”