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North star.

You are facing the harbor & the open sea. Behind you, smoldering ruins, the iron city. Across fragrant waters, the country of forgotten names. You are travelling light, carrying nothing with you but what you have lost. Tomorrow, you have been told to bring only herbs & spices--almond, vanilla, rosemary, rue. I guess you could say you are doing so well as can be expected. Cell by cell, your hands are beginning to forget the feel of her flesh-- her neck, her breasts, her thighs. You are cured, almost cured. Day by day, the language you speak has become a barbarous mockery of your mother tongue. Only this morning you woke to the familiar smell of a tiny blue flower you no longer know the name of. Still, you are fearful of calling too early & hearing it ring & ring & ring ... & thinking ... & then beginning to think ... Just yesterday, you walked into the gloom & lit a candle in her name & made a wish, a wish for her. What kind of wish you will not say. So, you are in the belly of the beast. Stormy weather. You have reefed your sails & are riding it out, scooping water with a net. As wave after wave sweeps over you, the old nausea returns--an underground cloud, black wing. Overhead, amber waters close, darkly gold as a toad's eyelid. When you stare at your hands, how distant they seem from you. Look in the mirror, what do you see? Your oldest friend, truest enemy. To slay the monster, a voice says, you must first find him. After death, comes forgiveness. (In moonsilver darkness she slides from room to room, silent & voluptuous as a wolf.) Where there is lawful terror, you cry, the stars are claws! Then you pull the red thread, & everything unravels in your hands ...

Shuddering, you wake to the throb & thrum of water & screw. Churning like an oiled swan, the North Star turns from the harbor & breasting the waves, steams for the open sea. In the thrilling clarity of a new freedom you see everything as though for the first time-- the red axe bolted to the wall, lifeboats lashed to the deck, the captain astride the bridge, wild-eyed & drunk on vodka, steering into the stinging salt spray. The strong current swiftly unfolds bolts of luminous blue. Pearly grey clouds float overhead--light tenders in a sea of oil. Beside you, she stirs--all white & gold. With a free hand you stroke her long, lovely neck. Smiling under the sun's blade she whispers, Darling, you will be my avenger!
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Author:Asekoff, L.S.
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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