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The Angel of Memory

by Michael Collier


Each country you visited became a small
possession mingling with objects
in your yard—Russia caught in tangleweed,
Italy, torn in the gravel path. One day,
you move the mower and find Greece:
a stone cottage, newly whitewashed,
an olive tree building shade around the outhouse,
two almond trees thin before spring,
and a plum tree you share with your neighbors,
who have stopped peeking over the wall
and come like friends into your yard with their dogs.
They bring pomegranates for your rabbits,
cracking the dried husks with blunt fingers.

A cloud blocks the sun for a moment,
and night fills the Greek village.
You watch Dmetri climb the fig tree
in Andreas’ yard and grab a hen roosting,
then pop its head off before it squawks.
He runs through town with the hen trailing blood
and leaves the head at the kiosk.

When you look closely at the white grass
beneath the mower, you see yourself
running though the moon-calmed village.
You are looking for the Israeli girl
who wanted to live with you.

Soon you are near the old harbor
where boats rust to the color of pomegranates
and kelp tangles with chains and bowlines
like grass in the mower’s axle.
She is as you imagined, watching an old man
raise a mallet to soften octopus on the dock.
The man is careful not to hit the ink sacs
near the head. The girl is so far away,
so small that her eyes, like octopus eyes,
are black with light; the dark brows
arch like birds over the hills behind her.

 

Michael Collier was a fellow at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown in 1979–80. His poems have appeared in Poetry, The New Republic, and Poetry Northwest. (1980)


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