Lindsay Ahl

On Elizabeth Street


As though standing

from the pink
        shutters like flags

of light bending

        this spot:

take this body
        stretch it out several

thousand miles.

It sings

Take it straight in:
        you are the rip tide.


You wonder how it is that limbs
        come to be scattered in mysterious places.

I’ll tell you: they follow the mind
        which dips and surges, finally breaks
beyond recognition, scattering itself

        in the cold wide rain.

(Do you remember?)
        tear it





This is the difference of time zones:
        holding patterns
the body finally breaks out of
        won’t listen to
but acts into
                the light.

The body that won’t listen to reason
        rises up.

You try to convince it that you know
        what you are talking about

that you know a gun when you see it
        for it is either a .458 or .308 semiautomatic.

A gun, anyway, or metal, or a murder weapon
                or the product of a factory
        all irrelevant, mostly

except it continues:
you’re looking at a dead body
                no, a sleeping body
        no, a body in its refractory period
                                                a man you love
        a man you don’t know
a man who means nothing to you.


        He would drink water
from anyone
        extend his hand for a cigarette
the girl next to him smokes,

        slip the drink out of your hand too
or from the guy sitting next to him
        it wouldn’t matter, as he is beyond that now,

cruising long and slow
        as though he is the only star
in the sky
        falling out of his constellation
roving the night, coming back around

to the stairs, the clinking ice, the voices.

Do you even see him at all?

Maybe not, until he passes by
        the light bending

everything in his path.

It is unintentional, and for one second
        there is no place to look.

His hand falls on his heart
        as though it might fly open

                out of his chest
as though he is a fire in the sky
caught between
        the here-after

and the here-before.


There you are
one world slouched in the corner
        of the other world

        and I on the curb
collision imminent
                birds overhead.


There is only one center point
        where all the alleys and streets converge
and there, in that spot, is the buckling
        the collision
                a blinding sweetness.

The pink shutters,
        like wings opening.

Birds fly overhead
        randomly, then in a V
coasting near the radius.

This is where you lose everything you had
        or thought you had
because you can’t get there from here.


If I had known, it might have occurred to me
        that there are all kinds
                                        of death
even in the blood rushing
                even in the sweet breath
at the end of the road
        because there is an end to the road, isn’t there?

Or could it circle around
        to that center point,
        your throat

in the thick of the forest
        in the blinding sweetness
wolf eyes, moon blue.


        You walk away with your drink
to the river and fog, ready

        to be taken down

into shadow and out

        like two foxes
unafraid as they glide

        their long tails sweeping
                the trees.

They navigate the space between
        the darkness
conspiring to keep us all in separate
        bodies, separate spaces

all of us, one moving transposition
as close as the stars
        falling back through the sky.


ice water, knives
a sudden inversion
                like being hit

by a swerving vehicle.

No one here
        is able to walk a straight line;

they are hardly able to breathe
        trying to get back.

Because all the activity
        the airplane rides and babies and cigarettes and sex
are just ways to connect

        anyway you can
as it all recedes
        under the sky.

The pieces float
                let them fall
        into the wide air
                let the mystery burn
        in its path.


Walking toward the high gate
        at the end
of Elizabeth Street

        like feathers, the shutters
blow in the wind
        voices break at the edge.

So, tell me:
we were no ordinary mortals
        that day
                were we?