For a postcard from that farthest country|
I waited too long and longer, against the count
of candle-burned hours and waking too late
for the sun cloud-shy on the cold side of the bed,
the warmth I rolled over for faded like its trace.
The days thawed into wind and willow catkins
and I pored over strangers’ palms by the river,
peered in at their eyes for a fishtail flick
of recognition, the hawthorn-haired boy
rolling an antique hoop along the railings,
the girl with earbuds and bleached cornrows
glad-handing bread for a squabble of goslings,
even a soot-black squirrel, if a tsking flirt
and scold could be our password, precipitous
as plane fruit, a teased returning unknown.
As if under the operative regard, a soul
could rust visible as lemon ink, carnately
disclosed: the last parched promise. Just so,
the steaming gates of hell slammed in his face,
the soldier who ordered death into his knapsack
trudged the slow snail’s spiral to paradise,
a redeeming wisp of the damned at his back
and the last sworn to call him beyond the bars
of chrysoprase and amethyst and immortality:
between the flies of heaven and the traps of hell
he roams forgotten, whistling a sad foxfire.
Who can secure the remembrance of the dead?
Beneath the pale cypress, you knelt and sipped
of the welling dark, Lethe sweeter than the blue
of an infant’s opened eyes, and rising stepped
away from pledges, grudges, loyalties, regrets,
all unsent intentions spilled to silence,
all the answer I can await from you.
Sonya Taaffe has a confirmed addiction to myth, folklore, and dead languages. Poems and short stories of hers have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and the Locus Award, shortlisted for the SLF Fountain Award, and reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, The Alchemy of Stars: Rhysling Award Winners Showcase, The Best of Not One of Us, Fantasy: The Best of the Year 2006, Best New Fantasy, Best New Romantic Fantasy 2, and You Have Time for This: Contemporary American Short-Short Stories. A respectable amount of her work can be found in Postcards from the Province of Hyphens and Singing Innocence and Experience (Prime Books). She holds master’s degrees in Classics from Brandeis and Yale. She says:
“Lamellae (Hipponion and Cambridge)” was the natural child of waiting for a real-life postcard while proofreading a study of Bacchic-Orphic underworld texts; it is not autobiographical, except insofar as the postcard never arrived. This is what happens to perfectly ordinary behaviors inside my head. Everyone winds up looking for dybbuks, on the wrong side of katabasis. Someday I will write a poem in which the main character simply visits Florida.