Halfway through a silent film, with its dark curtains and pale women, I start to think of the cello. Did a corseted actress say your name? Did she somehow mean eclipsed? Behind the stage, a piano moves to lower octaves, shuddering one note at a time. And as trolleys flicker across a porous screen, and I can almost hear your white teeth glisten, like little bells. At that, the audience applauds.
He recalls painting the second story rooms, hearing a neighbor croon Tosca from below. As the lady sings, light in her hair becomes a constellation, its points aligned in the pale November sky. He taps his brush and crows fly out to meet her, flapping their hollow-boned wings. She sways from east to west. When the clock chimes, his halls loom blue above him. The woman sings and sings.
You walk past a crystal decanter glistening near the harpsichord. Since our guests left for the ocean, with its dark enclaves and its low mumbling, the lakes have done nothing but rain. And our dim halls become more cavernous with every evening. When I ask why the rooms buzz with damselflies, you merely nod your head. The shutters blow open and closed. Our parlor hums like trees shifting before a storm.
Or do I mean a mourning dove, rustling in the trees? Again, the harps are quiet. Ever since her miracles stopped, the sisters have wept and wept. And when the organ starts up, groaning under vaults and beams, light catches the dust in every window. Pews begin to glisten as though they were polished steel. A dark bird warbles in the nunnery while the hagiographers nod their heads, listening intently from the eaves.
We drive to a window factory and traverse its rooms, the summer night pale as the steeple of a church. Behind each door, you dust locks, turn hinges, dragging your signal flares and your phosphorus glow. A yellow light catches spots in each pane as we count the saints on dim clerestories. Soon I ask, one word at a time, mouthing into the watery dusk: Est-que je ne suis pas une fenêtre? You turn from the work, appalled, our reflections like sand burning into glass. A porous moon stares through the doorframe. The locks say nothing.
Once he returned from a long trip and found dozens of dead canaries. They littered the terrace, his doorstep, every dirty windowsill, casting strange yellow light and tiny shadows. That night he tried to clear the cobblestones of their otherworldly debris, humming Dvorak and muttering to himself. A coffee pot rattled in the kitchen. Then he stopped, leaving feathers to drift in each corner, the old grey house still an homage to some other life.
Come in, the cellist said, showing her up a flight of dusty stairs. She recalled the thin wooden railings from her last visit, when they found canaries nesting in a corridor. Tonight, their song waxes with her restlessness, ticking like a metronome into the dark blue night. At this the musician begins to stare. He brushes their pale feathers from his tuxedo, buttoning his long silk gloves. The woman rifles through her pocketbook.
apocryphaltext Vol. 3
Kristina Marie Darling is a graduate student at Washington University in St. Louis. She has written on contemporary poetics for The Boston Review, New Letters, The Colorado Review, Third Coast, and other journals. Her most recent book is Strange Gospels (Maverick Duck Press, 2008).
7 poems by kristina marie darling