I am the hollow circle closed by the ring.

A Bride’s Hours
by Jean Valentine

1. Dawn

I try to hold your face in my mind’s million eyes
But nothing hangs together. My spirit lies
around my will like an extra skin
I cannot fill or shake.

My eyes in Bachman’s rectangle look in.
I, who was once at the core of the world,
whose childish outline held like a written word,
am frozen in blur: my body, waiting, pours
over its centaur dreams, and drowns, and wakes
to terror of man and horse.

2. The Bath

My sisters walk around touching things or loll
on the bed with last month’s New Yorkers. My skin
beaded with bath-oil, gleams like a hot-house fake;
my body holds me like an empty bowl.

It is three, it is four, it is time to come in
from thinking about the cake to eat the cake.
My sister’s voices whir like cardboard birds
on sticks: married, the flutter and wheel to find
in this misted looking-glass their own lost words
in the exhaled smoke.

                                    There isn’t a sound,
even the shadows compose like waiting wings.
I am the hollow circle closed by the ring.

3. Night

I am thrown open like a child’s damp hand
In sleep. You turn your back in sleep, unmanned.
How can I be so light, at the core of things?
My way was long and crooked to your hand!
What could your jeweled glove command
But flight of my stone wings?
Our honeymoon lake, ignoring the lit-up land
Shows blank Orion where to dip his hand.


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