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Paul Gibbons
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Fugue: In Medias Res

A goat stood in the wish of crickets.
Lichen blighted the rocks in moonlight.
Sleep was walking the sun back to morning.

Isabella wouldn’t bathe until the Moors left Spain.
Stay with me now: it was not an unusual night
until, out of the darkness, the goat,

tired of being still, put its back into it.
Isabella stopped walking, in the middle of the goat’s bray
beginning. At the city’s center, the fountain was inviting. . . .

Centuries later, there were goats chained
to the deck of a battleship. A voice
counted backwards. Men shuffled on goggles.

This was not a drill. Crowds of photons
were busy deciding: wave or particle?
Then, out of the darkness, they put their backs

into it. On the ship, some goats were separated like a series
shaken from The Interpretation of Dreams.
Others flowered as though through a kaleidoscope,

which is to say, not unlike Isabella staring at the moon
and contemplating her God’s plan.
There was the question of how a body will react

to such light. Of how cosmos blossoms inheriting dusk
can go unnoticed. Of freshly opened scents drifting
first from an orchard, then through the colonnades

of L’Alhambra, where the Catholic queen stood
drying her calves. Her attendant paused under the orange trees,
one hand holding linen, the other soap.

It is the same two-handed pose a man will strike
in a shower near the Bikini Atoll in 1946
where the distance knocked orange and violet.

He’ll have seen the rising brain expanding its ripe folds
lit like dirty twilight above the horizon.
But this man who was there would remind you

you only have to find the door and you’re home,
you only have one more river, one more angle
of incidence to prove that there’s reflection.

Watching light come apart in his beer glass.
Or through the hide of a goat. His cancer
has spread like the blight of lichen

on the rocks in moonlight. He is so tired no night
is unusual. Each morning walks sleep
back into him. It’s how he stays with you.

He has stepped into a river that
Heraclitus said is never the same one twice.
In the middle of things.

And the goat that stood out on a night during a siege
in Granada sired generations of gloves,
milk, and then test subjects

for a derelict ship in front of light so strong it tore
their bodies cell by cell. And to my friend
who recently named his second child Isabella,

It is not the same river. He bathes her with his brain fiery,
his hands steady as rocks. Stepping lightly
around her coos. Never tired of being,

he puts his back into it. He thinks the next time
he will add a spur of lavender to the water.
Perhaps a new sweet soap that runs

the hands without a second thought.
He’ll put a kaleidoscope to Isabella’s eye
and the crystals blown and fused from sand

will not be a drill. The light will wrestle down the tube
to the child’s eye, will strain through the retina
and run separated shadow from color, or nearly so,

and then will dash through the optic nerve
to the visual cortex to mix again as
oooh and aaah. Which is what a man with cancer

is reduced to. I’m sure he loves
the clean whistle of her skin, of Isabella’s skin
after the siege, still the middle of things beginning.

 

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