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Diorama    pg. 1997    Diorama

Her hand around the necks of both swans—
the handle of an intricately carved pastry wheel,
a tusk whittled to purpose. Every graven line
made by the scrimshander’s hands,
he thought of her, turned bone to dust, to two swans

with a single body harnessed to a cart with one roller
—a plow through dough,
the bow of a ship scything waves,
water, like the swans’ necks, curved
in the direction of the cleave while her hand

is where his hand was when he began
such unrest with his knife. Three years at sea,
memories of the first and only time he saw her.
This gift used for seven times as long
as he was gone, then discarded. Later, found

and framed in a box lidded by glass.
To make the display, the birds must be put to rest.
The sweetest sound is one unheard. That unseen:
what’s palmed by the large hands of a magician
—is that you? Make an orange disappear until

all I want is pith and zest. What’s in my hand
is what I want to give you: fish from Lethe
—have I given them before?—
the flash of scales under the surface of water
struck by sun. I give them to you

again and again. What else? Pie and candy,
the sweetness of parched lips. I slip the last five letters
of your name in my pocket, forget them with cob nuts,
pens and found feathers. With an unsteady hand
I construct us in miniature, in a shoebox railway station,

I frame myself in the train’s window, my palm
touches glass, not your face. On the platform
you stand—raincoat tight to throat, the silence
of wheels, the unchartable sky of pinpricked stars
—you wave an endless goodbye.