Out flew the web and floated wide;
The mirror crack’d from side to side;
“The curse is come upon me,” cried
The Lady of Shalott.
–Alfred, Lord Tennyson
I lie down in a boat the color of poppies.
The island recedes, the tower’s long shadow.
The upper room has already forgotten me,
where I rode out these wars, believed
myself safe. My mirror has forgotten me,
reflecting just that window I was forbidden
to look through. The trellis, the grid of vines.
That lonely, late bee going in and out
of the mute, orange trumpets, and beyond,
the spires I thought were Camelot.
Even my loom has let go of all I made
from what I thought was pictured in that glass.
Today I turned. Today I turned and saw
beyond the tapestry, beyond the glass,
beyond the lattice, the bee, the bright leaves.
I saw the rising smokes of Baghdad, New York,
Dresden, Portland, Jericho, and Thebes.
I turned. The mirror where I once conceived
myself innocent cracked from side to side.
I turned again and partway down the stair
that fabric, lovely, intricate, unreal,
heaved up and flew and floated from the loom
and raveled in the wind of my leaving.
Now, in my boat, I dream of the fish below,
weaving through the green of submerged weeds.
A dragonfly hovers above the water,
a thin flame of blue, a twig of light.
Its wings are fast, no reed to rest upon,
invisible, a blur of stillness, a prayer-wheel.
It casts no shadow. I am sick of shadows.
Who are we? Just frightened children
who glimpse ourselves in the glass and find
we are the monsters under our own beds?
Or is that the face of god? In my dream
my boat is a cradle in which a baby sleeps,
remembers warm breasts and the smell of milk.
The boat is cold, wants to rock, to keep
the child asleep, does not want the baby
to wake up to the dark, wants to enter
the child’s dream, wants no longer to be
the shape of a spear-head, the color of blood.