AVA C. CIPRI
And, even as I write this now, I wonder how much I’ll embellish. This poem always sounds better unpenned.
I remember you took me out for my birthday dinner and how the restaurant didn’t impress on the outside. Tucked away windowless, unassuming.
I drove by every day after teaching, where we were both TAs at the University, but it was a reservation and I dressed proper.
You turn off the jeep’s engine and we step into the winter of a Syracuse star-studded night sky, your perfume notes of vanilla and citrus.
Inside saying, “The chef just won a James Beard Award,” you slid—and that is the right word, slid—out of your white faux fur coat checking it, with your open back to me, asking for mine.
Standing in that low-cut black velvet dress reminds me of those years I danced, perfecting rond de jambe combinations in the mirror among women at the barre.
The small Art Deco-inspired room is only fitted with tables for two
and ours is tucked away in a candle-lit corner.
Our table’s porcelain vase is entwined with gilded silver serpents
housing deep purple-bruised calla lilies.
And, there are portraits
of rabbits, geese and squirrels
tucked among the foliage
of a vertical wall garden.
Poring over the menu you tuck some honey-blonde hair behind your left ear as it falls across your dress’s plunging neckline.
And, unmistakably, for a moment, you look at me
the way you do Bono.
“I’ve heard the PEKIN DUCK is everything! Let’s try, no?”
((Blueberries, Garden Turnips, Watercress Leaves and Elysium Jus))
I drink from my sweating water glass, nodding.
“We’ll start with the “OYSTERS AND PEARLS”
((Pearl Tapioca with Island Creek Oysters and Regiis Ova Caviar))
Call it what you want, but this is seduction.
I can say that now. Here in this poem.
“La fenetre” I almost sing.
“My favorite French word . . . it’s the sound I fell for.”
And, I’m almost ready to say I only took up French in junior high because I had a crush on Ms. Beaufort with her wavy strawberry blonde hair and vintage dresses, but I know you’re not ready to hear that. Nor to claim we’re more than friends.
Tracing the lip of a calla I’m on the edge of rapture,
negotiating the price of admittance.
But, I know there are no roots here
like these cut flower stalks
that at best will only live another 3 to 5 days.
but, isn’t the setting better in winter because of that coat, that reveal?
How could I not?
Celebrate the sun’s spoils: fistfuls
of thorny berries, sangria & pheasant.
The year’s vaulted sky opens &
stars drop like locks
from the dark doors of closets
into the sea, where gulls circle.
In the recesses of your days
mark the anniversary of your death,
leaning against the doorway,
tipping his hat & rewinding his watch.
What sun once shone
in the cemetery of childhood
settles at the edge of a flat headstone
in the middle-of-the-road.
It’s so pure in the cemetery, in the ever-after,
still arriving, you find roots in the heart
of Queen Anne’s lace & knots of blood—
the dead mosquitos on your arm.
In this 40th year, feed off
the bone, the marrow. Lose yourself
in the chase like the fox
stalking against a threshold of receding sky.
Until that day, no bargaining, no compromise
in evening’s last pitch; dusk,
where time bends fixed shapes.
Draw patterns in the soil & pay off debts
in herbs & roots, in salves & balms.
Summon your coven:
be the fire-eater
be the seeker & seer
be the nesting starlings
Memory insists the dirt road was longer then,
and the cabin bigger.
Nights nuzzling in as you read aloud
Emily Dickinson’s Final Harvest.
Riding is what pulled you away
from your marriage, to Vermont,
where you kept your oldest son
close to the Canadian border.
And the stable holding onto the last light of day
hinging into dusk.
And the sun pulsing behind you
in the stall where you brushed down the horses.
They call it sundowning:
the lead mare
from the herd
caught between fight-or-flight.
Pent-up, you rearrange your room, again,
whimpering, They’re coming They’re coming
The day’s reins loosen
until you won’t let me in
to sweep the glass
until I have to call Resolve Crisis, again.
It’s too late for sugar cubes and apples;
it’s too late to free what is already lost,
to return, gently nudging,
close the chasm between us.
There will always be progression—
Nothing to halt and pull
you back to me.
Light crests the wall
as never and forever
Ava C. Cipri is a non-binary queer writer and poetry editor for The Deaf Poets Society: An Online Journal of DisabilityLiterature & Art. She is a Pushcart and Best of the Net nominee with an MFA from Syracuse University. Her poetry and prose appears or is forthcoming in Cimarron, Crab Fat, decomP, and FRiGG, among others. Ava is the author of two chapbooks; Queen of Swords (dancing girl press, 2018) and Leaving The Burdened Ground (Stranded Oak Press, 2018). She resides at: www.avaccipri.com and tweets at @AvaCCipri