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Spiritual Guidance Las Vegas

from paradise

We held on
and the rock broke free
cliff bits and scrabble letters
following us down
Anna let loose two small screams
like pregnant mice
aborting their offspring
I landed first
  and collected the things
at my feet—
Shells, candy wrappers,
pennies, threads, emblems
torn from sleeves
We built a universe of these
   unnecessary things
On our fireplace mantle

Outside the windows,
our fall has jostled the stars
    loose from the sky   

They fall to our front lawn.
We never thought we’d have a lawn
   a brick and stone four-bedroom home
in the middle of New Jersey.
Anna mows the lawn in a bikini

to keep the neighbors talking
“Don’t mow over the supernovas, darling!”
Anna bends to lift another sparkling star
    from the dandelion weeds
She places the stars in a glass jar filled
with fireflies and feathers
“Put the jar on the mantle!” she delights, “Tonight we’ll witness
a battle of light.”
At nine o’clock we drag cushions to the floor
and watch fireflies breed with stars to produce

Our lawnmower is retired for another season
The supernovas have children with wings
I have Anna in a towel on the living room floor
painting her toes with last year’s pink
“What’s it called?” I ask, fascinated by the names of toe polishes
“It’s Blushing Bride,” she tells me, “The next coat will be Cherry Blossom.
I’m suffocating in this house. Did you bring me here to die?”
These things are also true:
Man is a fragment
—an island—
a vegetal species
a hierophany
What does any of it matter?  I wonder   Even poetry
silver utensils, apple cider, sighs,
fantastic voyages on cardboard skateboards
             (when we were too poor to drive)
Looking around
I suddenly can’t avoid the crudeness of this:
             placement of matter
this mistakenly solid identity 
a man and his wife     the everlasting strife
            the formulas and recipes
I smash the jar
the lightening bugs are free
but the stars are weak from captivity
and fall, again, to the hardwood floor
            in the shape of no constellation  
                       Anna collects them in her hair. “Why did you do it?” she screams.
                      “I wanted them here, with us.”
                      “But I’m not here! You’re not here. What is that awful smell?”
                                       (a moon rotting on our floor)
                      “You,” Anna points accursingly.
                       I shudder at the tip of her finger.
                      “Find solace on the golf course,” she says. “It’s all illusion anyway.”
                                    Perhaps she’s right, and we are not here.  
Yet there are times I feel the density of my atoms
        Other times, I’m just the space between 
a synaptic afterthought
a procrastinated abracadabra
a rabbit never yanked from the hat
a hankie never pulled from the sleeve
I know someday Anna will leave me for someone understated. He will be a Romanian who sells luggage at the outlet mall. I’ve seen him before. Everything he does is sad and deliberate, and he moves so slowly.
             He makes love slowly, Anna will say.
Their look will be the same:   a potent intensity   an immediate intimacy   not lonely or desperate   but grasping.
Anna has always looked that way. As if at any moment she’ll lose what she has— 
the grasp on a reality she doesn’t subscribe to.
            On his break they’ll sit together on a park bench and read a book about Buddhism. Anna will stay on that bench all day until the metal slates brand her bottom. Then she’ll stop by my new apartment “just to say hello.” I’ll tell her not to come by anymore. I’ll divulge my plan to purchase a five-piece set of Louis Vuitton suitcases from someone other than her lover. I’ll tell her I don’t subscribe to moderation anymore.
            “I’m alone,” I’ll say.
           Anna sits cross-legged on the floor and weeps. The stars have died in her hair. I pluck their limp corpses from her bangs with tweezers and lay them on a paper towel. Anna sniffles into an afghan. “I’ll write a poem about it,” she says. She wobbles to her feet, drags herself to the kitchen, and shuffles through a drawer. “Do you remember the pizza parlor?” she asks. She holds a pizza cutter in her hand.
          “I remember the sign,” I say.
          “Yes!” Anna smiles. “It was a great, big sign shaped like a red arrow. They’d hired that man to stand on the corner, jumping with the sign.”
          “But the arrow pointed down when we saw him,” I remind her. “That man had fallen asleep on his feet, on the corner, jumping.”
These things are also true:
1) Our shoes are covered in clods of dirt from the burial site we’ve dug. What will resurrect in our yard next year? Incorruptible light.
2) Crepuscular decomposition.
3) The precarious human condition.
4) Any theory that justifies suffering.
5) I am so far from the main stream, I’m not even in a tributary.
6) I feel horrible for valuing freedom. I should have remembered nature's sternest law before I released those stars: one cannot release a domesticated species into the wild without taking great care; a captured creature cannot be thrust so suddenly back into its freedom—not after she's been softened, enfeebled through submission, lessened, tamed, hobbled... hey if there's no Romanian, how will Anna survive when she leaves me? 
7) Anna is about to leave me.
8) Dark matter takes up just as little space as light. 

            I try to demonstrate this principle using my human body. I kiss Anna goodbye and lock myself inside our cedar armoire. For two days, I see no one. I remain in my cell, condemned.

           On the third day my problems peeled away. Smaller and smaller my life became until I wanted nothing more than to look at the sky and see it dotted with the evening stars.
            I shake the spiders and moth balls from my hands  and  I   emerge.
            “Anna!” I scream. I search the hall. I look underneath the stairs. “Anna!” I check bedrooms one through four. I head to our backyard. Maybe she’ll be there—an effigy of letters, stones, and stars returned to live tangled in her hair
            “Anna?” I search the outlet mall
                         There was never a luggage store
         “Anna? Anna?”  
Where did that girl go?
               the one with the mason father
the one with the wide, white hips
she looked like Marilyn Monroe

Jaclyn Costello

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