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Short poets scurry about
like ants on solitary errands.
Each carries a tiny packet—
a moonbeam here, a cricket there,
always careful to follow the rules:
Eighteen and just home
from lunch with girlfriends
the marriage seemed distant
but now it’s night, the pre-wedding
ritual of drawing henna flower patterns
on all ladies hands continues, and though
there is food, laughter, chatter
there’s no mention about tomorrow night
not even from my sister while she
and mother anoint my hands and arms
with scented oil, push many small red and gold
glass bangles up my forearms, while we sit on the floor
as we must we women, but tomorrow
I’ll be lying down
though first I’ll sit alone in the big room
listen to the wedding band and ceremony
outside, the money thrown about, cheers
for the groom arriving on a white horse,
finally he’ll sit beside me, our eyes down,
guru will chant ritual prayers, throw coconut milk,
rice, garlands, I’ll wear my new red sari, gold necklace,
we’ll join threads
I know it all:
walk around the fire
my single life burning
buried in flower petals
beside him always.
In June 2009 archaeologists unearthed in Hohle Fels,
a cavern in Germany, the world’s oldest musical instrument,
crafted 35,000 years ago in the depths of the last ice age.
From egg, to bird, to bone: I sing again.
Surprised, I died. Fire scorched, teeth tore;
my wing bone—why that one I came to know—
saved, hollowed, drilled, notched, and scored.
Flames leap, and on low walls shapes dance.
Drums beat, lips press, fingers caress,
breath lifts me up, I soar once more,
I am the bird become the flute, the song.
I’m drawn to Bishop’s Orchards, a local store
where membership entitles me to discounts
if I can make the plastic card pop up
on my key chain before the customers
behind me start to fidget.
It might be simpler to have a conversation
with the manager about my Bishops’ ancestry—
I introduced this theme the last time I was there,
Mary Bishop was the one responsible, I said,
marrying George Hubbard, the surveyor,
they’re in generation twelve on my personal chart,
the cashier’s eyes glazing over as she re-bundled
the root vegetables in discreet piles.
Their daughter Sarah, I continued, gathering steam,
got mixed up with that Harrison boy from Branford,
sort of Puritan fanatics, didn’t like the way
the votes were going, and before you know it
practically the whole town disappeared, a ragtag
but upright congregation floating down the Sound
past the Dutch, establishing Newark on the Passaic.
Eventually some of them returned, like the Bishops,
like me. I see the manager has indeed been summoned.
We’ll go to his office, discuss my idea for a Bishops’ tattoo,
the crest of the Bishops of Suffolk, a more permanent
discount ID with a fast lane for all descendants who qualify—
I’m certain he’s ready to certify me now.