Wednesday, May 06, 2009


The first thousand years were the hardest.
The oil in the bottom grew tacky; it snagged
my ectoplasm, pulled me out
of the little shape I had.
Every time the sea surge
spun us over the rocks
I thought it was a hand: I thought
I'd found a master. That I was getting out.

But gradually you learn. The second thousand years
I learned to fill that brass-lined space completely,
till the lamp was like a second skin. I knew
the rocking, and the bumping over stone.
I told myself I didn't miss a body.
Nothing hurts, when you're made of smoke; except that
Tugging from the sticky oil. I imagined houris,
but all of them were small and curved
like the inside of the lamp.

When you finally came I knew, though. I knew at once
it was a human hand. Heat, say the philosophers
in Baghdad, travels well through metal.
And the motion was deliberate. Not the slow
sleepy indifference of the sea. Your fingertips
were warm through the thin worn skin of brass.

Well. That's the deal: you call and I have to come.
But no one told me how much work it would be.
Like smoke, I poured out, into the dizzy air
And I tried to remember
How to harden. I was terrified. I might just blow away.
I had only the touch of your fingers for an anchor.

In the stories they say I took my shape at once.
They have to say that kind of thing. They leave out
The time you had to stay with me and whisper reassurance.
The time you had to tell me it was all right after all
If all I was, was smoke. That the granting of wishes
could wait. How I wailed when the wind rose,
and cowered in your shadow.

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