Forrest Gander

Facing in All Directions

Resting on her belly, her long-fingered hands suggest she is pregnant. It

might be

September, when the full-bore orchestration of insects rusts out, goes tinny.

By the way he has raised his hand to her face

as though it were an innovation on faces or merely the envelope

for his admiring, as though a hand could say thou — we recognize them,

lovers who have rushed

to the wood’s edge

on trails of inference

through all the thicknesses of scattered and divergent signs,

flying the contagion. What plague this time? What time?

As if there were a safe house, some renunciation to grope toward. Look:

He is still a boy even, an eagerness

he has let her pare

into the avowal that unlocked her eyes. And if

in his pocket he carries a flute carved

from the hollow ulna of a red-crowned crane,

and if in her kiss he can taste black pills she has swallowed to stop

the bleeding, it is not in the brief conspectus of

their history according to Dürer

who shows us, us alone, the skeleton behind them

unleaning from a tree

as a tense might be unbound. The couple pause

to appraise each other, their miraculous escape

from a fatality

that leads precisely here. As it always does.

But warning birds have yet to fly up in their faces. Briefly,

however briefly, they outstrip ordination.


Then the sun’s limb darkens, clouds roll in, and when rains let up

no one is there. Only two stalk-eyed flies fighting on a stump. In a

distant city

once named for the white thighs of its women, pigeons

blister Sacre Couer’s dome. Dim, early morning, on Blvd. St.-Germain,

phalanxes of sycamore thicken with seed balls. Raiding

the palace, a grimy throng rouses the queen from sleep.

As hallways swell with shouting, she gathers herself

into her gown

and stumbles to the ante-room

known as the Oeil-de-Boeuf. Although she rehearsed

these moments, each gesture is fraught, each effort invested

in others, an architecture of ornament she cannot begin to put together.

With a quivering in the walls as the great doors bow inward. Like candles

on a sumptuous table,

the evenly-spaced steps of her fleeing,

the little coils of scent swirling up from each footprint

conspire to weigh her down. And while she pounds at the king’s chamber,

a single bellow

fills the hall of mirrors, as though a huge mouth were coming

to swallow the remaining ripe hours

already dished for her to try.

Always: as though a huge mouth were coming.

But days warm and the tourists walk on

through the palace, through an incessant storm of cometary grains,

swayed by plans for lunch,

by rear-guard obligations. One shopping cart

rammed into another. Little failures leading to blankness.

The Seine rises and oceans rise and form their lightless floors, giant worms,


and gutless, wave.


Dear C, do you remember finding

this rock in the garden? Grey-blue silicious slate. It burrowed up

through the millions of years of sedimentary facies

between begotten

and born. Events

occur as discourse, it’s true, but who

would read the stone or say that such-and-such a point, at these coordinates of

August luster

and the ratcheting of cicadas, it entered the drama

interrupting life as it was lived and known.

It brought no plague; it has no mouth — a word

I write and see your mouth, the star

in your lower lip where once your tooth went through.

No warning birds. No slackening of the river.


An alluvial scar incised

by a river is like the gnash of arriving through thought at words. And words

themselves can be compared to stones,

relentless systems of reference. On the island of Cyprus, amid rubble

from the earthquake that obliterated Kourion

in 365 A.D., they found

the skeletons of a young man,

a woman, and their eighteen month old child.

The man’s arm circled the woman’s waist, his left leg

as though to shield her,

he had thrown across her pelvis. He held her hand and clutched the child.

Bliss comes uncounting the hour, seizing no set moment. Some

claim there isn’t time to consider the whole of the story or

the interdependence of its characters. Some say every meaning will be

revealed until the last witness is lost and gone.