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Oriana Ivy





Close to the surface of a smooth lagoon, 


I saw the end of the rainbow: unraveling 



like strings of yarn, a shimmer so intense 


it hurt my eyes. And in the last inch: 



nothing. Not that I hoped to find 


a pot of gold — but wanted to believe 



in the soft returning dove, 


Noah pulling her in, her twiggy kiss. 



Nothing! — not a bridge between heaven 


and earth — a rainbow doesn’t touch the earth. 



Prayers don’t climb up, blessings do not 


shimmer down. Yet one time I walked behind 



my lover on a narrow path, thinking I had 


never asked for “handsome” —



not an athlete’s harmony of shoulders,


long limbs. And later in moon-dazzled dark,



I knew I had never asked for such mind, 


such spirals of whispered flight — 



like seeing an eagle glide by at eye level


when I stood in a high mountain pass,



so close I could almost touch the splendor. 


Not the nervous dance before the nothing 



at the end of a rainbow. Only mastery


and calm, as if to prove the real can surpass



mere faith. It can stride on water. Mate 


in the holy air. Die at peace, as an eagle flies.



Here’s what slipped into my heart:


that crested yellow tongue



down the runway of parched truth:


and those petals’ pulsing blue,



the excitable color of now:


like coming on a meadow of wild iris.



Long ago in dank woods,


I blundered on a dell



of lilies-of-the valley:


white lovers palm to palm



between leaves. That’s why God


must be forgiven, and why Dante puts



those who weep when they should


rejoice in a muddy pocket of hell



near the wood of suicides. After youth’s


‘love is pain’, that blue-purple flight.



On Non-Judgment Day, in the Valley


of Saved Moments,



I will bloom, the wildest iris.


Oriana Ivy was born in Poland and came to the United States when she was 17.

Her poems, essays, book reviews, and translations from modern Polish poetry have been published in Poetry, Ploughshares, Best American Poetry 1992, Nimrod, New Letters, The Iowa Review, American Poetry Review, Black Warrior, Wisconsin Review, Prairie Schooner, Spoon River Review, Southern Poetry Review, and many other journals and anthologies.


A former journalist and community college instructor, she teaches poetry workshops.

She lives in San Diego.




I begin to count the words for snow 


in the singing languages I know,


but can’t wade past the first one, 



śnieg — a grandmother word —


fairy tale of my life


with wolves in it. Tiny needles of fate



stitch my face, my eyes.


La neige, I think, and am saved — 


the way he could say 



Je t’aime, but never 


“I love you.” What he loved 


was the elegant scar



of my accent. He and I 

in the hollow of his car

talk without touching until I



whisper goodbye. I watch 


the ghost glide 


of my hand over his; he laces



his fingers with mine — 


We press into each other’s arms,


try to kiss, but cannot —



our lips will not stick, 


our mouths are too dry.


We let go in a darker dark, 



do not know who we are:


he the bridegroom of death, 


my miraculous error,



my own season in hell


I’ll walk out of — not his 


bride, but my own. 




If I were again in that car, 


again young and starved, 


could I say with an artist’s 



absolute, hardened heart: 


Go ahead, kill yourself,


make me a poet —



No — I want only 


that moment of failure,


letting go in a darker dark —



Grandmother, from frost-lily 


stars, teach me how to pray 


for the dead.



She answers, “Plant flowers.”

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