by Maya Owen
cause for alarm
It surprises no one when the heart
tugs at its yoke, chews
at its tether, will not be gentled
despite our sternest ministrations.
It is almost welcome that it can’t
be pinned down, mounted, hung on a wall;
that its music is rare and
We’ve learned to live with rain on the tin roof
of the heart, the shock of a bird
or a bat in the rafters, suddenly alighting.
And who among us has not been snowed
in, locked out of the heart? I’m no maverick
for remarking just how like a colander
is the heart: sifting beauty out of ordinary
darkness, and how
like a camera, hoarding luminous distortions.
It is to the astonishment of no one, then, that I say
the heart is alone in the woods,
the heart is quite lost in the woods, and miles from water;
the heart is alone, and lost, and calling your name
through these woods as the last light defects,
and the hunger of wolves—fickle axe—hangs over it.
At the beginning of this poem there is music. Until the music stops, no one can hear what their lover is saying. It’s like that with God and the din of our blood in our ears. It’s like that with thirst and everything after. For forty days, Jesus went without water. Until his blood was thick as yoghurt. Until it made no sound.
Look up—catch the yellow eye of the moon of this poem. Moons in the desert are without acolyte. Flora in the desert must ration their bloom. Tribes in the desert pass their bitter cups: another lupine psychopomp heralded by mescaline. Another mammalian angel. Water is everyone’s mother, she says, then: Give me something to drink.
At the centre of this poem is a woman crying out for water—pitcher at the foot of her hospital bed; no one’s footsteps down the hall; my own limbs unyielding.
This poem ended days ago, with no pyrotechnics and no witnesses. I was spent; I lay down in the belly of an hour. I dreamed you walked out of your grave. In the dream we drove fast, towards nothing. You began again to resemble yourself, though I was less sure what kind of creature you were—not quite transfigured: tampered with. Not the first time I’ve dreamed you undead, not the last. The flame of your hair on every security camera; the deer, always a sign of something, never merely their own brute phenomena. Water, you said once, was my element, then showed me how I could cede to its pilgrimage my heart’s dark freight.
Maya Owen lives, writes, and sings in London, England. Her work has been (or will be) featured in publications including the Adroit Journal, DIALOGIST, Drunk in A Midnight Choir, Cleaver Magazine, Nat. Brut, and Glass Poetry, and been nominated for a Best of the Net Award.