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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.

B FLAT

 

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.