Fall Issue 2022
Oriana Ivy (2)
VIRGO IN GRAY
“Battleship gray,” he defined it,
with the precision native to his sign.
We went to the harbor to check, and there
it was, his color: a battleship, gray
to the tip of the radar tower.
The grays multiplied
like the moon and memory.
Sun cindered, the water shone
oily gray. Pelicans sat on a barge,
huddled gray shapes, reflections
fractured in grayish waves.
We stood on the cliffs
next to NO TRESPASSING sign
on a stairway down to the ocean.
No one ever gets arrested, I told him.
He said, “If I went down,
the entire Coast Guard would arrive.”
Gray and immobile as a pigeon,
he stayed behind. Alone
I went down the steep wobbly stairs,
then stood on the slippery rocks.
Gray foam hissed around my feet.
Strange, what drew me to him
that night on the campus parking lot,
wind tangling eucalyptus leaves,
the windshield streaked with rain.
I thought he was more daring,
more ambitious than I, as he spun
his proletarian dreams: an overstuffed
leather armchair, a closet full of suits,
and he, a civil-rights attorney,
at a stunning young age elected
to the Supreme Court,
writes the decisive opinion
in a great legal case, then commits
a rational suicide, leaving a one-word
suicide note: BECAUSE.
I said: “You are a child.”
And yet he dared to dream,
and yes I was in love
with a grown-up suicidal child.
Rather than study for the bar exam,
he’d watch black-and-white
war movies on TV, wishing it were him
on the screen, an R.A.F. pilot
soon to be heroically dead.
Twilight grew on the trees,
leaves turned the color of the trunks.
I came to him at noon,
wearing a burgundy fedora.
A black hole hums as it spins,
astrophysicists announced. It sings
one melancholy note, B flat —
many octaves too low
for the human ear, tuned in
to mother’s voice,
the creak of a branch,
small birds predicting rain.
Perhaps that primordial B flat
is a greeting to other black holes,
singing to each other
across the black mother void,
before the yet undetected
birth song of new stars being born
in the nest of the black hole,
not just the mournful anthem
of everything leaving everything —
galaxies rushing off
to more important places;
a lover quickly walking away.
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.