When a man loves a woman,
he sits her down and grasps her hand
in the manner one might hold a seashell.
Darling, he says, I confess
I’ve felt my whole life
like a serpent among babies
in a barren waste of human excrement.
To which the beloved shall nod.
To which the studio audience
shall be instructed to brutishly shout.
To which a mighty army of the dead
shall be conjured to skull mountain.
And distantly a black wave
clacks its tongue against a sea cave.
No, no, the painter thinks
and reaches into his wicker basket.
He paints a crib at the crest of the wave,
a crib at the trough.
A throng of babies
will overtake this beach, he thinks,
but at least I’ll die beautiful.
The woman re-enters the portrait
to find her lover lost in thought.
Darling, says the woman,
bending to her knees,
I confess for as long as I’ve known you,
I’ve been a pine
and loaded onto a truck
for a Christmas extravaganza.
When I breathe, I can feel tinsel
flooding my lungs.
When you prune me,
I can make out the voices of carolers
fleeing the fjord.
And they fall into each other
like clumsy ghosts—
the man shimmying his rattle,
the woman dropping her cones.