What The Water Took: 7 Torahs And A Piano by Miriam Sagan

What The Water Took: 7 Torahs And A Piano

torah of morning
of noon
of dusk
of midnight
of moonrise
of daytime gibbous moon
flood water

torah of terror
of anarchy
of forgiveness
fire in the water
a dog
a child
bent street signs

torah which unrolls
the story of Noah
an ark
a dove
a raven
streets as rivers

a house
your house
a house
caught in a tree
the army corps of engineers
a pumping station
a levee

torah of glass bottles
dangling blue glass hands
a message
a twisted menorah

torah of brass bands
coronets and horns
twisted shofar
blowing not air
but water
clarinet set with rubies now mute
torah of the broken flute

torah of Jacob
wrestling with the angel
who cheats to win
God’s lie, the rainbow sign
(no more water
the fire next time)
words float away

and the piano of glass
of sand, strings plucked
by fish
how the water took even
our idea of land
and in drowned sleep
spirit moved on the face of this deep.

Photograph by Helen Exner

City of pickpockets and the dead

City of pickpockets
And the dead…

The Hondoran cabdriver
Points to the full moon
(solstice, eclipse)
Says: it is my favorite
How do you say it
In English?
My favorite…astro…

A sign in the bar:
And at the voodoo shop
(feathered boas, pole dancers, palm readers)

And for some unknown reason
Every other block
A reflexology parlor
(Chinese? Vietnamese?)
As if the foot
Were a map
Of the city
And the city
A map
Of the world.

City of pickpockets
And the dead…

No oysters in the little hotel
With its fountain
Of boys riding dolphins.
Necropolis of vaults
Ominous oven-shaped graves
Above ground so the dead don’T float
In a city where the living
Floated–a dog, a child, an old woman
In a wheelchair,
Where X, the universal sign for rescue
Is X’d on the voodoo graves
In groups of three
And I, who am accustomed
To light candles
Won’t leave a copper penny here.

Across the destroyed ward
It is Al Baba still
Where the robber king
Marks the door
Of his intended victims
With a chalk X;
Next morning every door
Is marked.

The silver mime
Turns on the corner
Yells at a tourist
Who fails to tip
“How’m I gonna buy
Dog food…”
A girl belts out
“There’s gonna be a heartbreak tonight”
Which for years I thought
Were lyrics saying
“There’s gonna be a party…”

And the beautiful ass
Of the stripper
Simmers in an argentine G-string
Girdled like hoochie-coochie
Who rises
From this
Muddy water.