Spring/Summer 1994, Volume 11.2
Poetry

JOSEPH BATHANTI

The Cartographer

"Memory is genius, really."
Robert Lowell
While she was gone he left
with his arsenal of maps,
and watched the house
through a grove of motley cedars.
No wind. Still heat.
Smoke from his cigarette spiralled up,
reminding him of the ibises
he'd seen wading in the Jumna River,
years ago, in Uttar Pradesh.
He spat into the air.
Real mosquitos, those.
At day's end, he'd comb hundreds
from his hair and beard. She could
sit pretty among them and never flinch.
It had been lovely to watch her,
as he did now as she swept aside
the curtains to allow in the morning sun.
There was more to it than that.
But he had memory for nothing else.
The mosquitoes enraged him.
He could kill only two; the second,
fat with blood, stained his shirt.
His hands swarmed his body as if
all he wanted was to be touched.
The woman entered the yard
and began gathering leaves.
He thought of the Himalayas,
knelt and put is ear to earth,
twice bolted up and did not breathe,
like an Iriquois scout. He could recall
a day with her like this, but
could not quite make the connection.

Living Together

Before we wed
we whispered like thieves
for we had stolen
and renamed the sacrament.
No one knew us.
Our attic flat was unheated,
furniture used.
We'd fall asleep with candles
blazing. By morning
the wine was frozen.
Our neighbors were drunks
and transvestites.
The man next door beat his wife.
But we loved them.
They were part of us
and we could see them clearly
from our second-storey window
across from the Detox Center.
Laying only in the raiment
of our skins we would listen
for their cries above the sirens.