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Oriana Ivy (2)



“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.

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