61: coma, canto 16

canto 16

Imelda showed me
her forbidden places.
The map of these is grand,
spread wide on the table of maps
for pointing to, identifying,
marking with a finger, and from the edges
one can simply stitch on new maps
prohibited only by surface
and time and the weather,
which may move in quickly
and snatch at the corners
of maps, finger them,
pince up and fling them
into the peach trees
or ruining on the grass.

she stayed
for a week at my apartment.
And when she met my father
she asked
about Ovid,
about hospitality,
about Aphrodite,
and he complied
with that wistfulness
of people who remember
what all the keys
open but lack the knowledge
of the motive for opening,
seeking even,
and so they speak
with words made blurry
by fatigue, words
that emerge into the air
and fall slowly like feathers
to the floor,
rest there like bursts
of dust or collections
of mysterious hair
soon by the gentle
hands of window or door drafts
to disappear under the couch.

she showed me dark
places under the sheds and barns.
I watched fish in pools
circle the reflection of the sun.
Imelda took me
by my belt
to where feeds were kept
and where at night
owls would perch
and sleep
and all the while that goose
followed us, waiting
at the bottom
of ladders, at thresholds,
out on the verges of lawns
and orchard paths.
He bites only
when I carry flowers,
she said.

on another day, Henry said:
It’s not right,
it’s not right.
We didn’t go to The Meadows
for hunting.
No, not at all,
I said.

Imelda would wake
early. I found her
with the paper
on the balcony
conversing with the women
with the tulip cup,
planning a lunch,
and when I looked at the women
with the tulip cup
she winked at me.

Henry said, It’s not right.
Imelda said, It’s what God
would want, love, more love,
big hospitality, for she
believed in a positive god.
Paul, Henry said, spoke to the Romans.
He talked about easy things,
conveniences, and fornication
was one of them,
which is true, Imelda said,
who seemed to know Romans,
fornication, she said,
and murder, debate, and boasting.
Covenantbreaking, Henry said,
looking at me, as if I were snapping
my father’s femurs, dishonoring
a past-imparted wisdom,
image, cracking old records
we’d listened to together.
I said, the problem
with Roman’s is that it proves
nothing, I said. My father
and I, we would go over this;
he’d propose a pattern,
say, from this God is manifest.
I would say: it proves nothing
because it’s really amounts to a threat;
Paul produces no reasoning,
I said, that the just
shall live by faith

because there’s no reasoning
of the validity for the just
and the faithless. Imagine, I said,
such a speech in Romans: Paul says:
the just may be faithful
and the faithless may be just.
This would make no sense to Paul.
But one must still be faithful,
Imelda said, to which Henry
could to that agree. We,
she went on, can agree in better
definitions than Paul
brought to the world.
Just, I said, come
with better definitions.
Goose, for example:
waterbird, leg pecker,
protector, not quite
as good as duck for dinner.
Henry said, You’ve
changed the truth of god
to a lie
. I said:
Which is a quote from Romans.

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