In certain lights, our garden looks almost—
not habitable, exactly, but like a garden,
all sudden jonquils, an unexpected host
of primrose like grounded moths. Think Eden
in the aftermath: boxwoods outgrowing
their bequeathed rounded, cornered, or conical
shapes. Dropped limbs. The grass needing mowing.
Windfalls liquefied, a smell
of last November. Hindsight. Fruit flies
ascending like visible, audible breath.
Imagine, against the wall, a rusted cooker
showered with damp white blooms. An onlooker
at an open window, saying, ah, here’s death
undone, again. And glad of the exercise.
(after Ovid, Amores II.13)
My rash Corinna lies near death,
her belly bleeding from the life she wrenched away.
Stupid, stupid girl—your breath
should bear the dueling cries of love, not lonely pain.
I’d spank you if I had you near:
across my knee, switch back your skirt . . . O foolish girl,
my anger falls before my fear
that I will lose your golden skin, your laughing eyes,
your kiss, your arch, your sigh, your fold.
And I’m to blame you felt the spring of life within—
or so, at least, I’m forced to hold:
What has sufficient cause we must conceive as so.
Desire only desire sates,
my ripe Corinna, what did you expect? Perfection
overflows, and love creates
itself in recreation. Your fresh life aroused
the life in me, and life—refreshed—
came back to you. How could we reject the gift
we labored for while our lives meshed?
O Goddess of Birth, Ilithyia, who comforts women
through the pain that makes life new,
forgive the girl who tried to flee from your embrace,
and sparing her, thus spare me too.
I’ll fill your shrine with votive gifts inscribed “For Life.”
Contrite before your altar’s door,
I’ll kneel—with virgin oil and fertile grain—to vow
that when she’s well, we’ll try once more.