Sarah Rose Nordgren
I pull myself from the water by my hair
Shake the leaves out of sleep
When garage-entombed at night
I perch on a childs bicycle
Wearing mothers nightgown
Frayed lace through winter
Growing back to perfection
I am the oldest daughter in the story
The one whose shoes floated downstream
Who baked bread in an underground oven
The dark jealous girl walking
Barefoot before the king
So far north now and west of Helsinki
I make my nest and lie in it
Run furrows with my fingers in cold so close
It doesnt feel like weather
Instructions for Marriage by Service
Surely shes worth seven years,
the black girl who hangs
in the corner like a dress,
insisting on silence
with her rose-bud eyes. I drink
from the family cup
solemnly while she dances
a ghost dance with herself.
O fertile is that field and ripe.
I earn my keep by keeping
my head down like a boxer
or an ox. Balanced
on my ladder-rung between
those I must obey and she
who hides a tiny spider in her
skirt-folds. I earn her
a little each day like
a dropper full of wine. Let her
damned sister dance in green
stockings. Let funerals follow
us like dogs on the road.
And let her be worthy
of the sweat Ill spill over her
for years to come.
Remarks on the Mornings Work in Winter
One hour alone is worth two after your master
has risen. The streetlamps, bright
and silent in the snow, stalk
your private movements. Rise early,
for the mornings are shorter now, and perform
your dirtiest tasks first.
Scrub the hearth-grates, followed by your own
body, with a stiff brush. Slippers
or light shoes will ensure you glide between
rooms like your grandfathers ghost.
You may be required to kindle
three or four fires before daybreak,
but their warmth is not for you.
Clean the forks in a keg of sand and straw
till they glint like teeth. Hold the ladys
white shoe in your hands like a living dove:
Caress it with egg-whites and milk.
You may find that the quiet, as it bleeds
in through the window frames
and from beneath closed doors behind which
people are dreaming, deceives you into
believing, for whole moments, that
you are a part of this home: That the space
on the floor where you kneel
polishing brass handles was exactly measured
for the width of your shoulders,
pelvis, and knees. The dark mahogany
of your skin blending perfectly with
the other furniture.
When I finally emerge from my rickety,
wooden house, the light has already moved on.
This makes my image soft
on the doorstep as I slip my kid gloves
over my fingers one by one.
From here I look down through
the constellations circulating as if in cream.
The wren and nuthatch lift my skirt hem
from the mud and Im ready
to descend. There is a machine
that delivers me from here to there
with expediency and care. Anything I wish for
it places in my hand miraculously.
Its voice is the voice of one hundred hounds
singing noel, and its arms are the bleeding
arms of trees. I do my shopping
with pleasure, and my hat gives a little nod
to the other hats, and my knees curtsy
to the knees. All the dainties
are whisked away into a linen sack
for later. As evening falls the streets empty
and windows, like one hundred movie screens,
begin to glow. A young boy follows me
through the lanes at twenty paces, ringing
his bell so I never feel alone.
If I wait long enough
between the rusted trees
where young mothers take their sons walking
I know they will
airlift in the crates of books.
There will be Proust and Flaubert,
the Russians, ancient religious texts,
and from Poland a calendar
of gourds. I imagine myself turning over
each page a picture each picture a ripe or carved out womb
with a lighted candle each page a month I will burn through.
I envy the boy holding
his mothers hand in the woods.
I have a body made hard by work
in other peoples homes.
A curve. A crooked
jaw. Pockets full of moths.
Gray beard. I dont want
children, no, I want to be a child.
If you look for a new house
you must consider
the previous tenants, the price.
My head used to have so much space in it,
a sky with white birds darting
like shooting stars.
Now Im more like a machine: furniture
bolted to the floor. But
But an old man.
I became an old man so early.
The Artists Boy
The sofa rises like a horse
from its side in the yellow room.
Wood-smoke and ink saturate air,
obscuring, dividing shape
from shape. One could fade
into the scenery near the glow
of his floating hair, this
perfect baby. Somewhere,
rain slicks up Main Street,
and a man bicycles home
in a navy coat, pushing his hat
into the gray. His whiskers are
damp as a dogs. Flowers tornado
to pavement as he whirs past—
coming from, going to,
a certain place. The child
wishes a room into existence
and its there. Walls yellow, furniture
warm as a mare. Somehow,
when you see him all nervousness
subsides. Little mouth blowing
on your cheek, those eyes
that seem but painted on his eyes.
In dreams, a writing tablet signifies a woman, since it receives
the imprint of all kinds of letters. -Artemidorus
I resisted the story so long and thus
believed, unconsciously, its opposite—
a mirror of what I hated, which was
no better you see. Flesh and hair
so ghostly you could read the veins.
I dredged the pond till my joints
gave my bones away. Just a few
sticks composed in the muck,
sheltering a school of fish. Now,
I thought, at least I can be useful.
If you have a voice, dont
waste it on opinions. Let the evening
audience find you each time as if
by chance. First, a swath of matted
hair, and then the rest: a foal
propped up and hesitant.