I became a cosmonaut for a girl.
“How cliche!” you cry but it is not
what you might think, for it was my daughter I sought, a child who drew blood
from the skin of reality with a knife
made from stardust.
she and I were both the stuff of myth, woven without
death threading through us like a line
of ink. we could not be scarred by mortal hands
in our house of many flowers.
But in a family in which every son butchers every father
and uses his bones to form seabeds, mountain ranges, palaces,
tragedy is cheap and I, a playing card fool, believed
I already exhausted my supply.
then the man, a king
in the dark, crept
beneath my daughter’s window and drew her away
to sail the night on his coat tails.
I never understood what she saw in him, his
hair the same shade
as a bullet, his body swollen with
past indulgences in a thousand earthly courts and he dragged
his left leg, as useless
as driftwood, behind him.
he had been a soldier once, before he became
lord of the empty places high above us, only vaguely
at her age, I would have laughed at a creature so fallible, so
desperate that even with our world in a persisting
state of apocalypse, he managed
to be a hedonist, dripping in furs, gold, a bombastic belief
in the grace and power of love as he stood atop the spines
of my grandfathers.
I chased my daughter and the king across
seven centuries and become seven different women
as I ran. I remember them
all, the Magdalene in her high tower who opened herself to another man’s
pale god, the songstress among the ruins, a fiddle propped against the curve
of a shoulder that had once been the smooth resting place
for my daughter’s head.
I even transformed myself into a dancer whose French sword
heels were good for dismantling
empires but poor tools otherwise.
and when there was nothing left to destroy, no more winter
to sow beneath the cathedral arches of my blistered feet, I found my daughter
at last, among the same constellations she had commanded
as a child with her king at her feet, his head bowed
We have all heard the feminist discourse about girls who substitute
the plaits of childhood for a crown of nasturtium blossoms to signal their victory
over the shackles of maternal expectations.
but my daughter did not deny me as I approached.
She only said, her eyes the blue
of a desert stone: “Mother, do not
hurt him. The king is a monster, a thing meant
for shadows alone,
but he is my monster.”
how could I kill him after that?
The king had belonged to my daughter all along, in the hollow spaces
between the stars.