O n  L e a v i n g

Olga Abella



An Acceptable Loss

Tonight the moon is absent,
silent over the earth we choose
to shape into catastrophe.
Beyond the window
the cricket is loud,
circles of no other sounds
reverberate against its single urging.

We talk of war as if the only
consequence is life, as if life
is a simple measure of will.

Headstones like blades of grass
too numerous to stir in breezes
shoulder each other, march in rows
neatly accommodating the figures
of consequence.

The moon is wise, avoiding confrontation
with dark fields plowed and watered
not by hands, streets walked not by feet,
songs eased into the air not by mouths
but by bones, blood and skin.


The Fisherman, Tsunami 2004

In Sri Lanka Martin
    stands next to the crumpled
    brick wall of
what is left of his bed
-room, and stares at the Indian
Ocean that swallowed
    his wife
    and daughter.
At his feet the grass
browns with salt, the trees
    have disappeared,
along with the neighbors.

On the beach his boat
    is untouched,
the net has no
tangles as he fingers the rope
He looks at the quiet
water tapping
    the edge of his boat, at the
    absence of what was his.

Staring at his hands
    in the net, at the
    only thing he knows
    how to do, he is
afraid to catch fish that feed
on the flesh of his family,

and he wonders how
    he can live
    with what is left of him.


In Memoriam: Labor Day

It has been thirty years
since my last confession. Forgive
me for I have sinned.
Yesterday on
the 17th year of my father's death
I lit candles for that freedom.
No Hail Mary's graced my tongue,
no prayers to guide his soul closer
to heaven. Instead I keep him
in the gritty shadows he casts
in dreams.

I dip my body in water,
in the oil of my bath,
to the slow croon of Bonnie Raitt's
we can't change the past, but we can
leave it behind
. As her voice glides
over vowels I slip my forehead
under the surface, the oil slicking
back my hair, shimmering on my skin.
I think of how little we leave behind,
of the accumulation I am, and feel
no penance, only the release of my breath.


Hand A Cappella
             (for Linda)

Behind the bone
behind the muscle pulled thin
as a shield over instinct
lives a word, the single syllable
of your voice held back.

I watch your fingers
not think their hold
around the air
you do not speak,
their gesture an open shaping,
pure assimilation
into open space.

In your hand is the impulse
of song, the capacity
to restore
the initial utterance,
and I listen
to what I do not yet hear.


On Leaving
        for Marty

People change, work hard to keep up
but mostly they get left
behind themselves.

He gave it up last night,
sank into the lull of the constant
buzzing of what didn't change,
of what might not happen.

He gave up the curl of smoke
along his tongue, the twang of whiskey
the push of wood against his belly
as his fingers strummed
the next current of his imagination.

He began to doubt the quiet
when the morning sun lifted
the shadows slightly
from the walls of his bedroom,

and turned towards the moan
that held the wanting,
the sound of a note held long over words.


Opening To Move

The iguana in the back yard
looks suspicious with its left eye,
as the right one hunts
for roaches along the sea wall.
I am caught by that eye
keeping guard while
the other feeds the need
it has to live.

You came to me on the left side
where I watched light
shift into shadows,
and I closed my eye slowly.

Air swirls you,
a lattice of breath
on my skin.

What is easy is not always
what is visible
and so I open my
mouth to your mouth,
let your words
coax me into morning.

How can I stay dark
in the white face of a moon
flat against my window,
compelling me to light
more precise, even as
my hand dissolves
against your thigh,
         and we become a new