Jessica Harkins

from Travel

III. Households

There was always another and another and another,
    –H.D., Helen in Egypt, (Leuké, Book Five, 1)

Already I have left the details of certain lives,
luminous objects that faded with touch
in rooms where I had surfaced to explore.

Arranged by habit, most carved figures
marked apexes, points reached but not surpassed,
and affixed gaping, cliff-like, boundaries.

Though details protruded into the sense of their spaces
as objects in any room, becoming known
figures…to be dusted, replaced.
Now that I know all turns—
figures—in the recesses of space
a reaching brushes many such objects

knowing not what they are. In rooms of night
it was best to untangle from the role
in a house; breaking apart the wolf’s face-mould

that had been cast, and set onto my features, I shook claws
from my hands like dust, and left the doe-skin pages
of rules. From lives, loves...
                        somewhere, in darkness,
in an apartment beside the family
I had worked for, or the room, where I had gone
to study, I might sense the crowded tympanum

now like an orchestra ready to take its seats:
horribly weightless, and spinning in time,

the offers of certain men, and of language.

XI. The River

—I was not sure what it was I should remember:

afternoons along the river, no half-naked children

swinging out over the current…but an occasional

fisherman’s son wading out in waist-high boots…

and yet returning to the edge of my bedroom

my heart strained audibly, and I tasted rank dust.

I have failed something, am failing now.

And it is not odd to resurrect it

in the quiet; what rises from the water

and follows me home is a dead man, composed of debris

and oak-brush. His steps are in my blood:

his steps and the splash of adolescent bodies,

startling again, though nothing is here.