Au­gust­land The Long Nine­teenth Cen­tury

The Iowa Review - - CONTENTS - Nikki-lee Bird­sey

I don’t not love. The sum­mer’s dark re­veals what? The spi­der’s threaded re­treat, the sea’s out­put, in­side me the large swaths of wa­ter, the swamp-

col­ored eyes. How many north-fac­ing rooms have I sat in, ex­plain-me how the dif­fer­ent apart­ments in which I’ve lived have the same stains.

It’s the “re­turn of Saturn” now, planet of my heart: melan­choly, burnt moons, ver­mil­lion bracelets. In the air­port all the signs re­veal them­selves:

I know you know we are all dead soon, rel­a­tively speak­ing. Dead as the Cinnabon™ in the Walt Whit­man rest stop on the Gar­den State Park­way, re­mind­ing me of air­ports,

of aerial per­spec­tives, of celandine, of the “crime that is Europe.” My en­ergy com­pany is named Mer­cury, but I need the lights on, al­ways, and they laughed.

I walked away from New York City, that song. In a half-dream I still see your face, the fi­brous light and Arthur Rus­sell’s world of echo open­ing

up the walls. At times, ev­ery­thing re­ally does sound like it’s un­der­wa­ter. Noth­ing moves where we are, the quilted notes; you should see the shapes I have been in.

It’s un­canny how much no one cares about the trees lin­ing the Gar­den State Park­way,

the in­ex­pli­ca­ble scorch marks in Devil’s For­est. New Jer­sey is the state of Saturn.

Ex­plain-me how Jesús’s L.A. cir­cles above me tonight, he, stand­ing be­low the white-painted arch, the pink bougainvil­lia climb­ing, in real time, the stripes over the swim­ming pool and the nod­ding of privet berries in the wind. Does even the dust glis­ten? I read a book in one sit­ting that made me miss my cello. In­stru­ments can only travel next to you or not at all. When I was born un­der the sign of Saturn they changed my name and Saturn claimed me. Saturn is the only planet with rings, its cir­cles move in ev­ery planet’s logic; draw­ing it all in with dev­as­tat­ing tides. By now, you re­mem­ber Whit­man wrote about a spi­der. Back in Iowa, in the sleep­less heats of Au­gust, pro­tean seeds, tor­nado sirens,

I punch a hole in the coat closet door be­cause the econ­omy is bad and two years pre­vi­ous my tu­ition was de­funded. Amer­i­can debt is time­less. The plains’ wind­flow­ers and wood anemones, colo­nial houses with oval win­dows and un­der­grad­u­ates in neon be­neath them, and be­neath that my three-let­ter world is bor­der­less:

For what is faster than my thoughts when I’m like this? My un­cle’s nine­teen­th­cen­tury or­rery on a ta­ble in the ap­ple or­chard, its glint­ing swings and levers whir in the wind, its click­ing sym­me­try per­fect to him. Damien and Chris said al­most the ex­act

same thing so they must be right. The long durée, just an­other good­bye in the night.

It’s an Au­gust Tues­day and I can’t heat the house enough. I mon­i­tor the de­hu­mid­i­fier. I don’t leave the house to watch it and the pi­geons out­side the bay win­dow, the in­sects as loud as New York City tonight. I walk through the gar­den, my vi­sion snowy from the light but for the dap­pled shade of end­less trees; how won­der­ful, me be­neath them.

I think of Saturn when I wake up to my own scream and the re­cur­ring night­mare of a man stand­ing over my bed and I think about when that started.

The moon mag­ni­fied through beaten glass. In time, you still wake to the scream, but mostly, you worry the neigh­bors heard you.

All the Au­gusts are root­ing for you even when you’ve man­aged to for­get noth­ing.

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