“The air alive, | memory lifts her head and I nearly | disappear.” ~ Anne Michaels, from “Skin Divers”

Yajuro Takashima Mangetsu 1963
Mangetsu 満月 (1963)
by Yajuro Takashima


My birthday present to myself: I spent two hours doing a practice Literature in English GRE subject sample test. I am woefully unprepared to take the GREs, so I suppose it’s a good thing that I found out today I’ve missed the deadline for submitting applications to the doctoral program at GW.

Ah me. Instead of rambling on and on about something that is bothering me, I’m going to post a lovely poem by Anne Michaels, which I found on  What the Camera Sees on blogspot. Please click here to see the post.

Skin Divers

Under the big-top
of stars, cows drift
from enclosures, bellies brushing
the high grass, ready for their heavy
festivities. Lowland gleams like mica
in the rain. Starlight
soaks our shoes.
The seaweed field begs, the same
burlap field that in winter cracks with frost,
is splashed by the black brush
of crows. Frozen sparklers of Queen Anne’s lace.

Because the moon feels loved, she lets our eyes
follow her across the field, stepping
from her clothes, strewn silk
glinting in furrows. Feeling loved, the moon loves
to be looked at, swimming
all night across the river.

She calls through screens,
she fingers a white slip in the night hallway,
reaches across the table for a glass.
She holds the dream fort.
Like the moon, I want to touch places
just by looking. To tell
new things at three in the morning, when we’re
awake with rain or any sadness, or slendering through
reeds of sleep, surfacing to skin. In this room
where so much has happened, where love
is the clink of buttons as your shirt slides
to the floor, the rolling sound of loose change;
a book half open, clothes
half open. Again we feel
how transparent the envelope
of the body, pushed through the door
of the world. To read what’s inside
we hold each other
up to the light. We hold
the ones we love or long
to be free of, carry them
into every night field, sit with them
while cows slow as ships
barely move in the distance.
Rain dripping from the awning of stars.

Waterworn, the body remembers
like a floodplain, sentiment-laden,
reclaims itself with every tide.
Memory terraces, soft as green deltas.
Or reefs and cordilleras –
gathering the world to bone.

The moon touches everything
into meaning, under her blind fingers,
then returns us to cerulean
aluminum dawns. Night,
a road pointing east.
her sister, memory, browses the closet
for clothes carrying someone’s shape.
She wipes her hands on an apron
stained with childhood, familiar smells
in her hair; rattles pots and pans
in the circadian kitchen.
While in the bedroom of a night field,
the moon undresses; her abandoned peignoir
floats forever down.

Memory drags possessions out on the lawn,
moves slowly through wet grass, weighed down
by moments caught in her night net, in the glistening
ether of her skirt. The air alive,
memory lifts her head and I nearly
disappear. You lift your head, a look I feel
everywhere, a tongue of a glance,
and love’s this dark field, our shadow web
of voices, the carbon-papter purple
rainy dark. Memory’s heavy with the jewellery
of rain, her skirt heavy with beads of mercury
congealing to ice on embroidered branches –
as she walks we hear the clacking surf
of those beautiful bones. Already love
so far beyond the body, reached only
by way of the body. Time is the alembic
that turns what we know
into mystery. Into air,
into the purple stain of sweetness.
Laburnum, wild iris, birch forest so thick
it glows at night, smells that reach us
everywhere; the alchemy that keeps us
happy on the ground, even if our arms embrace
nothing, nothing: the withdrawing
trochee of birds. We’ll never achieve escape
velocity, might as well sink into wet
firmament, learn to stay under,
breathing through our skin.
In silver lamella, in rivers
the colour of rain. Under water, under sky;
with transparent ancient wings.

Tonight the moon traipses in bare feet,
silk stockings left behind
like pieces of river.

Our legs and arms, summer-steeped
slapped damp
with mud and weeds.

We roll over the edge into the deep field,
rise from under rain,
from our shapes in wet grass.
Night swimmers, skin divers.

~ Anne Michaels


Music by Shawn Colvin (with Alison Krauss), “Shotgun Down The Avalanche”