When I came looking for you,
they said you'd climbed the tiled steps
up four flights to the Moorish balcony
and from there
first let go the dove,
then your blouse,
then your soul.
They say a flash of light was seen from below,
and that for a moment the street hawkers
stopped their birdsong
of pesos and peddling,
that cars stopped honking,
that the air changed from brown to blue.
But you never came down.
There are pesos in my pockets
I'm spitting out the chewed sugar cane.
The picture I carry of you in my wallet
is cracked like the soles of my feet,
but this is no church,
and I'm not on my knees.
There is a nun talking to an old, old woman.
They are tisking, shaking their heads,
glaring at me until I return their stare.
They touch their rosaries
and look away.
A dove takes flight -
but maybe only a pigeon.
And maybe - you simply jumped.
Because she was such a silly hen, we had to keep her away from the Rabbi, the neighbors,
the business associates Papa brought home, but her laughter could be heard bounding down
the stairs like the voices of winged planets.
We confined her to the children's room where silliness was a smell in the air that tickled
and to be a dragon or a prince was as easy as squinting and remembering pieces of the story
she'd read to us the night before.
Her red hair crowned her wit like an aura and the tongues in which she spoke reeled in
moonbeams, pleaded with God or blasphemed so that Momma would go deaf and dumb
for a whole day.
She carried her secrets in her bosom, and we wondered to whom they'd finally be revealed.
Some days there were woodpeckers in her mouth and blackberries in her hair. She was a silly hen, and they took her away.
Sarah Jane steps across borders like tiles on a kitchen floor, to the sink in Buenos Aires, to the cupboard in Vienna, to the table at Picadelly - this traveled lady who needs no passport because the roads, planes, yachts, trains, sedans and prams come to her, all roads leading to Sarah Jane with Lake Elsinore reflected in her eyes, who opens her mouth and breathes the garlicky humus of Dizengoff Street, whose piercings reflect the troubled kingdoms of Tokyo, Paris and Orlando, whose feet trail red dust from Calcutta and Bryce. Sarah Jane who needs no passport, who breakfasts with Schubert on the Rhine, who snacks with Valentino off of Sunset, who lunches with Gauguin on imported papaya by the docks of Marseilles before he's to leave forever, Sarah Jane and her embezzlement of bodies, Sarah Jane and her teasing of time, Sarah Jane and light and no borders and the sky and no borders and her dreams and no borders.
© 2005 Steve Gross