Twelfth Night From The Willow Cabin

By Mary Szybist

Can you see through the window, the moth
(color of old handkerchief) flickering up
through the dark — as if it would tell us something?
It doesn’t. I continue to stack
the forks neck upon neck until they lie
still, they lie right. The moth flutters
lower. The cross-eyed cat approaches
with its tiny, bee-like mouth.

How can I say what it is to see it
brush you? As it denies me
even the smallest affection, I call it
Lucy, after the rich woman of Sicily
who spooned out
each of her eyes,
placed them on a platter,
and sent it to her suitor as a way of refusing…

What separates self from the flutter
of longing? They don’t fit
the way these spoons fit into each other.
They are more like knives that won’t stack.
We do not own ourselves. We do
we know not what, and fear it: yes,
I believe miracles might change me,
but I mean conversion from.

O sweet burn-all-over,
we do not distinguish thirst
from hunger, nor the cat
at our feet, temptation from
the moth at the window. O sweet
burn I have always wanted
this pleasure, this end
— yet I intend to be gentle.

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