for Joseph Cornell
Waiting for your body by the stove, I look for your trademarks and wait for a stale sleep. For too long I imagine my body blowing out the white-framed window.
Sky ceiling. Radio star. Catapault. Yes. This keeps me a shell. For now.
These shallow frames can both lure us to the past and push us clean away.
This contained space of strangeness: two cardboard photographs of bodies touching. A large signpost reading Hotel Andromeda.
I wanted to say the physics of impossible things to you, to feel more blue in the current than we let on. I wanted to harken the outward wreck of poets sleeping around each other. The stalemate of disintegration.
I wanted to come back to this room because I had a dream about it. You disappeared behind the mirror and white wire screen of your bedroom, you, a black-capped chickadee, a hemmed thing, and out of the window behind it.
But I am exhausted by cataloguing lovers. Nothing bloomed, nothing embracing.
Some form the visual takes.
What else is there? I sleep with one hand under my hip. I tuck my feet beneath myself, press myself against the firmament of the third floor. I need to think of us like this, you turning back only to nudge me forward.
The existing. The whether. The Whole of the Universe Unknown.
I tie my hair back at night and think of your quince tree. What a familiar experience: no real warmth, the kitchen already too close. Every window a way to search toward a first clear, through the trees and hours at night.
The old forgetting and underfeeding. Dawn of early mystery.
Are you brave like me? Are you still with me?
In three hours I had named the house finch in the backyard with its red flushing. You were there in its plainness (“finch and jay (unmoulted) arrive on quince tree branch”), its flavor of etiquette.
Sometimes it takes a while to stop this seeping back.
Your trademarks are everywhere: the graying robin in the driveway, generations of moths that will not leave the kitchen, the crushed cardinal’s wings undone and opened out.
To forget is to recognize, which is to remember, that is to say, create.
He is the brightest thing on the road.
This can be our letting go: a scavenge for material remains.
How to begin again: I remind you of islands splitting into other, infinite islands. Dream of that ever-weightier name for keep. You are still, I am thinking, holding my signal in your hands.
Exquisitely made, should I not be: a little piece of chorus, even if all you are is in the litany of what is left.
I burst from you in that you are not.
Are you cardinal, are you quince tree
Are you plural
are you embarking
GALE MARIE THOMPSON is the author of Soldier On (Tupelo Press) and two chapbooks: If You’re a Bear, I’m a Bear (H_NGM_N) and Expeditions to the Polar Seas (Sixth Finch). Recent and forthcoming work may be found in places like Gulf Coast, Guernica, Bone Bouquet, Powder Keg and Colorado Review. She is the founding editor of Jellyfish Magazine and lives and writes in Athens, GA.