Sarah Crossland

Calenture

Late one night, a man is summoned by a wealthy
family to take the last photograph of a young
bride who has just passed away without omen.
                   —The Strange Case of Angélica

1. Memento Mori

Welcome to the white turrets
of the town of her
body, elbows
bent arrows relaxing
in the mouth
of gravity’s black
appetite.

On the fainting
couch, before the camera’s
toggle, the dust-lipped
lens, the late bride—
clean as cave
salt, dead
as corks shupped
to the pantry floor—

casts her smile only
when you watch
for it. No one else
sees her eyes
window open.
And the secret
is you can love her

teeth, surviving
as if the pedals
compassing
the base of a harp.
More gold than
bonish. You say her name

but mean its flower.
Neither ever-
lasting. Angélica.
What they call
seacoast or poison,
small leaf,
kneeling, king’s.

2. This sudden love

In the day you walk through
vineyards as if across
a mirror. Here
people say cameras
capture what the heart
would shutter—men,
plaid-shirted,

their faces dirty
with cornmeal, panting in time
with the pocketwatch
of the sun, pose
as if still lifes
of wealthy
apples. You imagine

yourself sweating
out wine, a bucking
river. The body
defeats, as they say,
with desire. At home,

you watch the glass
door waiting
for a wind with hands
soft as a girl’s,
but nothing
startles. Behind you
the blowups
of butter lilies,

landscapes, hung
to dry with clothespins
cold as her
fingers—yesterday—
curled to the cage
of her chest.

3. Sky Boat

A trick of silent film—
the splice
from an empty
balcony to one seized
by her revenant
(all pearled
with white shadow

along her cast
hair, quiet light
house, guiding you seasick
to the window).
The scent of Portas Manor
and its cold
Spanish moss clinging

to the diver’s
knife of her neck.
You collect her
to yourself.
Sob a estrela bela
no body, in sleep,
can be heavier
than cotton. So you rise.

Buoyant
among clouds,
her ghost over
yours, you think love
must have taken
the earth
away. Rib

to rib, you drop to pluck
an avalanche
rose off the skin
of the river. Steeled
stem—you crux
it in your teeth.

4. The Crack-Up

Morning. Like smoke
from a country
cigarette your mind
exhausts around you:

the desk lamp, white iron
bed frame, a chair
the velvet
green of a vegetable—

she is a ghost now living
only on the wall.
In your portraits.
Their corners coil.

You find the canary
stiff in his coop,
days without
feed, hard as a mineral
and shineless.

What can we do
with the dead but keep them
memorized, at least
until we know what
of them continues?

You run to the street,
into the witchweed.
Where your lungs begin
to move like ships
without oars.

But when the school
children come upon
your body—thefted
of sound
and vision—they will instead
picture you an airplane,
crashed with your arms
crooked in the copse
from flight.

*Sob a estrela bella translates to under the beautiful star.

Sarah Crossland lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, and is currently researching for a book of poetry about the Romanov daughters and the Russian Revolution, tentatively titled The Winter Palace.
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