Cadralor #11: "Irridophores" —for Patrick
- "Beowulf, Patron Saint of Boatbuilders”
- “The Streets of German Village”
- “we peppered moths”
- “Quantum Entanglement”
When did you first realize Beowulf and Grendel were the same person, his bioelectrical field gone acedic, flesh overcoming spirit, arm in arm with his own mortal desires? You have only to listen for the echo of masts, the lines slapping spars, hawsers straining under load: it is the singing of the Other in his blood, the sea-creature pull of battle, the call to dark places and strange deeds.
Oh, hero. You’ll wait all night in the mead hall as the fire dampens on the hearth; word-hoard unbound, your magnetic field spilling out over the tables, across strong bodies. You never knew you would sacrifice your own arm to thermal time, to claim this green-eyed pleasure, to sink by firelight into the mingling of tongues, into golden sheath and sword
…or did you?
Above our blue masks, we smile with our eyes; we recognize the flawed dialect of our synchronous clothes. Our hair shines, smooth above good jewelry, scarves in jade and turquoise, perfect lipstick and clean glasses. look down It is too cold for sandals, but our feet have forgotten how to close inside shoes. What is a sock but a sarcophagus, a slip of concrete? We push carts across the parking lot, the squawking protests of wheels, hoard bright patterned bundles in our trunks like elephants. In her car now, I see her shoulders move; I think she’s laughing until my own hands rise in grief. When I surface, she is gone. I dry my eyes, practice smiling with my whole face. An adult human’s bone mass is mostly hydroxyapatite crystals; we are growing more arteries. Soon, our veins will flow deeper, evolution protecting us from us. We both drive home to strew porches with pumpkins, meager talismans against a civil war.
The cobbles are glossed, softened by three hundred years; they’re glazed with the lives of our great-great grandparents. You remember the copper and steam of your grandmother’s kitchen, the hand-rolled noodles, yes? Walk down the street to the Book Loft, loose your ness into its brownstone labyrinth, wander into the music that calls you. You may spend hours in a room the size of a closet, transported to Órgiva, the coast of Normandy, buying bread. Steve, in his timeless blue shirt, dark haired, rings you up, remembers you after three years away. Walk through gaslight glow to the Mohawk; drink wine with people who have loved you for three thousand miles, for thirty years. Later, make pesto in the rented kitchen, gnocchi steam beading windows, anointing the spider plant’s long green legs. Love is alchemical, lifts us fragrant.
Dip your finger in Chantilly cream; summon unto you, my lips.
Mars breathes methane, sends plumes into the atmosphere, lost hieroglyphs spiking pyramids into summer. Water may once have flown here; pebbles line the river channel. Look too long, your eyes will sketch footprints along the waterline. My student tells me:
“Methane only survives a short time. It shouldn’t be there. Something is…replenishing it.”
I think: even if it is only serpentinization, iron-bearing rocks reacting with water… there is water. All my body’s molecules rise to peer east at the red planet. You and I know it takes more than eyes to see what thrives below the surface, to skein our fingers through dimensions. Bohr says we must unsharpen. The peppered moth sees with its skin; dermal photoreception means that if blinded, it still changes color to mimic environment. How would you illuminate if you could drink Earth and Mars with your skin, drench your own irridophores iridescent?
Spread this old white blanket, just so, under the ancient olive tree; anchor corners with kicked-off shoes, the full basket, keys you know you’ve lost this way again and again. Bring out sweet dark cherries, soft white cheese, pour red wine into blue enamel cups; pour fingertips and mouths toward angles of repose. Be still, now, and let the pinyon jays alight: a quickening of dovesoft bluegrey, if water were silk and feathered, voiced with marjoram and leaving. A quick rain spangles the air with petrichor, entangles with sparks as the train comes by.
We granulate, come to valence, falling through; our bodies and voices mingle and fizz like an unfocused film, the static blurring our pulse lines in this sacred field, the final keep of the known world, where we are only visible when we collide.
Rising, we catch the holy afternoon light by its gills like a golden fish and eat it with our hands.