You built dolls for the owner
of the black house, played piano
for the scenes you put in his mind,
gave him two wives, one bride unstripped,
hydraulic cunts, and mirrors
too many to count. You invited
all of us into the black house,
and I went in not knowing
that I could never get out.
Nights have grown so long
I need some woman to hold
but you have made me afraid
of trusting where I touch. The owner
of this house hired imaginations.
Imagine me a way to get out.
When I arrive to desert rock and the long laddered night
to wrestle crude angels and dislocate my hip,
I find a trick, a cornball trick: there’s only me:
A cheap, shoddy revelation, not worth the making.
So I squat and I dream of water in a cold clay jug
that I must tug from your rough hands.
You have some notion of blessing me
with scattered drops lost from your sacred palms
and magic’d away before they plop
on my increasingly golden head,
my self-appointed saint
with your cool alabaster mosaic feet.
I dream and squat halfway to almanac’d dawn.
The angel of fire and the angel of ice
the angel of sun and the angel of testimony
play dice over our ghosts,
a penny a point,
and leave us egg, salt, and flatbread for manna,
dew to drink whenever we, shadowless, wake
from our never sufficient sleep,
and start our days again, blinded.
YOU DON’T GET ONE THING WITHOUT THE OTHER
My days have known nothing of my nights
furious storms breaking retaining walls
and floods that drowned my mind
stranded my soul on slate rooftops
sent my eyes and lips and liver floating fast
and boiled waters into waste
My nights, spent in shelters with night people
assembling new solutions from a saved pocket watch,
grand maw-maw’s crochet, photographs of fatal surgery
and their collections of foreign songs and feathered wings
I see ankles finer than madness
shoulders greyer than pearl
mouths rouged with pinot noir
thighs as thin as poppets
earrings strung out on clotheslines
and patience as short
as Pepin the dwarf in the vaudeville next door.
I have seen the starry dome crack itself to let in moonlight and rain.
Reid Mitchell is a New Orleanian living in Quanzhou, China. His poems have been published in numerous journals, including Pedestal, In Posse, Softblow, and Cha, where he is currently guest poetry editor. Mitchell's novel A Man Under Authority was published by Turtle Point Press. He frequently writes with Hong Kong poet Tammy Ho.