Sunday, January 29, 2006

Malachi Black

To a Lady
After Horace

The pebbles plunked like grapes
or rain, pestering the windowpane
until you were awake.

The moon slid its small blue
hands into the bedroom, past you,
or it used to,

when the couplet of your shutters,
so often closed and opened, was a butter-
fly, a flutter,

like the motions of your lovers,
frog's-legs kicking off the covers,
thick within your vulva.

You learned to make out
midnight's faces from its softly other shapes,
to separate

the thin-string song of crickets
from hoarse whispers
from your mates,

to guide an adolescent eyebrow
to your collarbone, a place
to sleep, a place.

Lady, quaking naked, waiting:
you were a station
taking in her train.

Grown old, now staling slowly,
loafing like a winter coat
thrown over a cold sofa,

you're alone.  And you can't keep
a streetcat.  But the damp-handed rain
cramps the puddles,

smacks on ponchoed backs
and cackles
on a standing taxi.

Only dogs, walkers,
leaves and others' lovers
lift their sounds in through your shutters:

not whispers, but the lisping
winds, when leaves' husks scuttle
on the street:  a sweep of scarab beetles.

Malachi Black is Literary Editor of The New York Quarterly.  He lives in New York City.