the rivers of it, abridged

New York City skyline at night




Melinda Thomsen


When you drive down the street
to my house in April, you'll see flares
of yellow splayed in a beautiful cascade
from root to base of the forsythia
bush. You can't escape yellow.
On the crosstown bus, a multitude
of forsythia blooms yearly
at the entrance to Central Park.
Dear Reader, let me speak simply.
Be careful of beauty. The forsythia
with its lithesome branches, each one
a sinewy tube that takes so many
twists and turns to break off,
better to use shears.
Reader, also be cautious of spectacle.
The thrill of so many blossoms
falling across the driveway with one
sweep of the hand like a sparkler dropping
flaming sparkles across the lawn.
Alert yourself to anger and its fast high
heeled walk in and out of the front door.
Or was it anger?
Reader, I don't remember what I'd done
to hear the razor sound of the switch
slicing through air,  the burning lashes
on my legs, my crying no, no, no, over
and over again. So Reader, if you search
for me, know that I speak in silence.
For I once whipped a forsythia
branch through the air to hear it sing
then hit the base of a metal pole,
shaking resilience into my marrow.
Be patient with someone hiding
in the forsythia, for I am not God.
I do not speak with a fire
that does not consume its leaves.


Funerary Cat in the Metropolitan Museum of Art

She could nestle in the hollow of my cupped hands,
this carved piece for some sort of lid, displayed
near a half-dozen mummies or shells of the elite,
like the young woman whose inscription reads,
"Artemidora, daughter of Harpokras, died untimely,
aged 27. Farewell." As I look over the mummies
and their belongings, this dead crowd, being mulled
over and leaned upon by everyone wearing a circular
crimson metal pin, I feel a creeping in,
a clamoring, from behind the high-security display
cases. Even the funerary boats of miniature Egyptians
seem to press in on me. Coptic jar after Coptic jar,
with their carved cat eyes staring out, gather
in on me. There is a display of a wig with a multitude
of copper bands clutching at locks from scalp to hair
end. Someone's hair adornments are under glass.
Was it the cat that started it all? It pulled me into
its domain, making me stop to look closer until
my eyes surveyed the displays above and below,
golden trinkets, and rows of lapis figures
of Duamutef, the dog-like amulets,
so much care, so much stuff and these
were what the grave robbers missed.
The idea clutched at the back of my throat,
but generations and generations
have come and gone with no good
luck scarabs or hair ornaments for us
to examine. The dry Temple of Dendur, lit
with crisp lights beyond the reflecting pool
and onyx New York night, displays the dust
like me and the little pale cat with its dry carved
eyes as one of the millions who pass through.



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