I’m almost ready to give her up for dead. I tried
believing she’ll appear someday on a boat from
downriver where she’s been making a living
as a dancer who glues yellow feathers to her breasts
and lets tourists eat guaraná from her navel.
I tried the easier faith of a gift-bearing God who
serves the whim of prayer, but all I got was this
ambitious hope, this heart that hangs upside down
in my ribs, blind and nocturnal and a glutton for fruit.
In a past life, I drowned with a rattlesnake wrapped
around my ankle. In another one, I danced for
a father’s obedience. In this one, I throw a rope over
a ceiling beam and let it dangle over my bed. Its abiding
creak rocks me to sleep where John the Baptist comes
for me with a basilisk on his shoulders, calls me
by my maiden name, and says: You have been weighed
and measured and found wanting stilettos and a lipstick
named Prima Dona. It’s not true, I try to say,
but each letter carves itself into a tree and holds
its blackness like a mirror. I see myself in every word,
only younger. I wake as libidinous and sincere
as Caruso in the morning lamenting his lost horse
on a victrola. The rope above my bed is gone
and John the Baptist’s head sits on my chest
like a wish seeking entrance to a well. Where is she?
I ask, turning his head over in my hands three times.
He opens his mouth to let down the flood.