Moira Linehan’s poems have appeared in such journals as Alaska Quarterly Review, Crab Orchard Review, Notre Dame Review, Poetry, Poetry East, Prairie Schooner, and TriQuarterly. Twice her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. In 2005 this Massachusetts resident won a residency at the Poetry Center at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
When Chagall Dreams
a man can be a fish
in the sky while in a distant orchard
a green donkey plays its violin.
Inside the man’s head a bride and groom
embrace beneath the Eiffel Tower.
A second woman, her hair wreathed
in roses, streams around a clock tower.
Chagall goes on dreaming
while I float
above my city’s rooftops, this city
of so much loss and desire. The man
I now love is so set in his ways
he will never unfold his arms.
He might as well be a fish in the sky.
Even Chagall’s fiery angel could not
rearrange this scene.
Wait! I am the fish
in the sky, longing to be the one
you thought beyond finding. Then found.
That’s the way I want to be held
by you, you who have aroused me
out of my grief with your violin
of green songs and roses.
In the Keep of the Body
Those preparing the body for the journey—
the one that begins in water, a barque
bringing it to the west bank of the Nile,
there to begin the journey that follows
the setting sun, its 12-hour pursuit of night—
first work a hook into the passageway
of the nose to draw down the brain (no use,
they believe, in this life, so none imaginable
hereafter). Next, the body turned on its side,
they cut an opening, reach in and take out
the organs. These the body will need again,
so these they preserve in canopic jars.
Each organ they remove except the heart.
The heart they leave in the keep of the body.
They leave the heart in the keep of the body
which they dry with salt. Seventy days it takes
to dry. Seventy days those left behind wait
before they fill it with spices, wrap it
in linen—the body with its companion
canopic jars, at last ready to embark.
Grief, meanwhile, has lost no time going to work
on the lover left behind, draining her,
then ferrying her to a desiccated place.
In dreams, already she is Isis, each night
finding her husband, one dismembered piece
at a time. Each piece she finds she re-buries.
Each night she fails to find all of him.
The Plumber Said
I’d have to live with it
until spring, the basement pipe running
to an outside faucet—frozen. So far
this, the coldest January since Cleveland
was president. I’ve been shutting that pipe off
and opening its faucet each fall for years.
Don’t you see how it slopes down toward this valve?
What I’d noticed when I went to walk down
my driveway was a free-standing column
of ice just below the spigot, the plumber
saying I should also have been draining
that pipe inside, showing me how for next fall,
nothing else (he said) he could, I could do
But when have I ever lived with
anything?—I who love things on or off.
I who know foreboding each time I walk down
stairs, down cellar, now my driveway. You’d think
a widow had nothing more to lose. Frozen
pipes burst, that’s all I’ve ever heard. Water
off, spigot open, mine (he’d said twice) would not.
Eventually everything thaws, even grief
so the second time around, attachment
clamps on ever more fiercely, the whole world—
or, at least, now my house—back for the taking.
I tell you, never have I been so long so cold.