by Diane Mehta
On the black stone edge of a medieval bridge inviting you to jump,
miniature lights trail on the tails of frenzied gnats:
transmutations of fireflies pinwheeling in confusion.
What have I become, they think. My fireworked body
creates illusion, inscape of escaping
primordial builders of stone bridges, architects of murder-mystery
stories and saintly executions, lovers of travelers collecting histories of sunsets.
The way is lit by saints who say Baroquely they feel your suffering.
I am so blood-blackened I can barely see the citadel through my medieval feelings.
Ancients or angels trumpet over the enormous noise the truest silence:
To every season heaven sings without you; fire is the absence of light—
not heat but righteous anger
boiling in our shoes, that what we learned was always there
to be heard, the way Matisse built shapes that match the neck’s curve,
hands in bright gloves, spines that could be leftover length of nooses
that could be mine. Easy colors, uneasy lives. I retreat from the bridge.
Another suicide, not mine, another grief-tackled body mind-meltingly still
in this surreal hard-believing world compressed, today, from sky
still blue after new death, old life, more or less love. I still believe in bridges.
Don’t pitch forward into concrete waves unless you have to, don’t trapeze
into the river or street; this is no circus. If rhapsodies are what we wanted—
if desire were molecules, if molecules were waltzes—
Fig trees once bloomed on the river’s edge, in conversation with thyme
and clover; void of meaning the way abstractions toss meaning
into fractions and pre-lunar understanding of starlight.
But our cities turned industrial, the repetitions of what centuries evolved
and art tried to control in its churning sand-bog of open-eyed styles.
This bridge is thronged with people. Breathe. We will not get anywhere tonight.
Diane Mehta is the author of the poetry collection Forest with Castanets (Four Way Books, 2019). She received a 2020 Spring Literature Grant from the Café Royale Cultural Foundation for her nonfiction writing.