It sacked my interior castle.
Wail and howls –
loss, as usual, and a nameless urgency.
It did not ask me but stole stole stole,
unanswerable as an owl
caught out by the sun.
I entered my sleeping self
and found I wasn’t there.
No name, no memory, in an incognito room
heavy with foreign shapes.
I said to myself,
whoever I might be,
There must be something I can know.
Inchoate agitation replied:
not words, but velveteen cecropia wings fluttering.
See! moonlight coalesces in a gauze curtain.
I don’t know that window
or understand the sounds of an iron lung.
A hotel, I think.
This backache is mine.
But who is that,
Outside this alienation,
coyotes trill Persephone songs.
Aril is the word
I learned in Saint Augustine,
that and coquina.
One is edible and known
to women who traffic with the underworld –
the other, an amalgam
of dead things telling partial stories.
On our first day there, I hurt my back.
Maybe that’s why Tam and I skipped
our cemetery visit.
Gravestones, coquina, fossils (even a diary):
only markers for what can be neither
fully grasped or told:
Identity is memory that has an audience.
The pomegranate arils were sweet
defense against the eventual Lethe.
Another thing we neglected:
a visit to The Fountain of Youth.
Mr. Leon, Mr. Leon,
how’d that work out for you?
The immeasurable gap between
“being and nothingness”
is a chasm we have no choice but to cross.
“Je suis perdu, je suis perdu,” she repeated,
thinking it meant “I’m sorry”
and not “I’m lost.”
The Belgian landlord’s daughter led
her home –
Who will lead me home?
This room is not a hotel.
That’s an intuition, and sturdier than the
fact of the moonlit window –
not a window, but a door.
I’m home, but not here.
The big cecropia beats her wings.
Coyotes and owls give voice to wild chant.
Almost a year ago, Tam and I
saw an owl in daylight,
lodged in a palm frond like a feathery kitten.
It was a message of loss misinterpreted.
Within the week, Tam’s mother had no voice to say, “Je suis perdu.”
I was no landlord’s daughter.
Not knowledge but instinct
brought me back to my sleeping self.
Is this how Alzheimer’s feels?
Is this my feathered-kitten, moth-winged invoice
for the toll we all pay,
and some of us pay before death?
Breathing, breath in the dark;
a hand I reach to hold.
In the morning Tam says,
“It was a dream.”
Coyotes, hold your tongues!