Postscripts from the Red Sea
by Sonya Taaffe
You will have to discover her name.
Ours we knew like our own heartbeats,
cast in the elements that had shaped
our bones: earth crumbled warm
in the sun and the desolation of darkness,
waste and fruitful; our bodies aligned
intricate as a river-delta, seashore
and desert alike alien to that green
that covered your mouth with date-leaves,
that rained figs like sighs on my shoulders,
the first time we lay together in love.
She will bud from you like a daydream.
So I pushed you down beneath the olives
whose branches wove a wedding canopy
out of the evening star, so I bound
your wrists with cinnamon bark
and rushes plaited in the scale-cool dew,
so I anointed your lips with pomegranates
and suckled on the honey of your tongue --
still you cried out into my belly
and my midnight hair, still you groaned
that I was all you had feared to dream.
You will cleave like sinews in one another’s hearts.
Leaving tore at me with an owl’s claws,
but I carried our child like a ghost
beneath my ribs until the sand turned
to salt and stiff reeds, spear-shaken
in the sea wind, until the desert
had fledged my spine like a night-bird’s
and nearly scoured you from my heart
with the fragile bones I buried
clothed only in the memories of you:
head flung back and helpless to me.
You will never disentangle our reflections.
I am her mirror’s other side: for every
moon-dark dream of me tumbling you dazed
into love with her, she will bear a child
whose shadow I will nurture as tenderly
as once I cradled you. This family
fashioned from ruin and remembrance
and the bitten fruit we did not share,
but this I prophesy -- when I shake
all our children like black feathers
out onto the haunted air, remember.
I lay once above you and you loved me.
Sonya Taaffe has a confirmed addiction to myth, folklore, and dead languages. Poems and short stories of hers have been shortlisted for the SLF Fountain Award, honorably mentioned in The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, and reprinted in The Alchemy of Stars: Rhysling Award Winners Showcase, The Best of Not One of Us, Fantasy: The Best of the Year 2006, and Best New Fantasy. A respectable amount of her work can be found in Postcards from the Province of Hyphens and Singing Innocence and Experience (Prime Books). She is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Classics at Yale University. Her livejournal is Myth Happens.
When asked to name what poem the word "cherry" immediately makes her think of, she replied, "By the laws of free association, the word 'cherry' causes me to think of Seamus Heaney's 'The Haw Lantern.' The fruit in that instance is cherry-like only in that it is small and round and red, but it is the poem that first drew me to his work; I recommend it highly. Otherwise, I think of the riddle song my mother used to sing me to sleep with: 'I Gave My Love A Cherry.'"
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