I could come back
an egret lancing the marsh;
perhaps the osprey

once disappointed a good man.
And if human—
longer-legged, sun-colored?

I could need your beauty less
but earn it more—planting cosmos
in other people’s yards,

giving my window box to milkweed.
I could find out where the twins in the sky
were born, why skin that’s been hit turns blue.

You could be a canvasback
or a zinnia a gentle child loves
beyond other zinnias.

Or we are attached to this life
as a painting of oranges is nailed
to a wall in a forgotten hotel,

and it’s no illusion that you
cannot be recovered
from some crevice in a cathedral,

some path stiff and same as hell.




           Argentina 1974-1983

In dream the truth was revealed:
how I began by combing your hair out
on the table
and lifting your temples from the bone,
relieved your head of your face.
I compromised what tied you
to the world, filled
your stomach with sand,
cleansed fingerprints, trimmed off
teeth. I brought you
into the untroubled sky
and unmade you in the bright air.
Violins rose to your vast freedom,
my one-time Communist, my whore
renewed. Angel scoured by current,
this is no Roman garden of justice.
I have not made an example of you.
See the sacrifice of the holy man:
free of identity, you wed
the ocean as equal, yet I
still tread the valley of work—
the souls that need erasing
never give me peace.


Jasmine V. Bailey's book-length collection, Alexandria, was published by Carnegie Mellon University Press and won the Central New York Book Award. Her work has appeared in 12 Women: an anthology of poems, the chapbook Sleep and What Precedes It, and numerous journals.