They gave the gods attributes
to disguise the cruel depth of their symmetry.
There were only two, split apart
into infinite pairs. Those first
were alike in their single difference:
one was more canny with his hatred
than the other. He held it close,
descending on lovers with barbs
that unfolded from his veiled loins
at the most final and tender moments
while she razed the earth raw
to make their sons pace through death
until a city heaved up around it.
We come to the eventual human error,
in which they loved one another.
If we shipped them to another planet
the same brilliant chambers would rise up
screaming above and below them.
Some of their multitudes wear snakes
around their wrists, others come with a mass
of tumbling and ripened fruit, healing naked minds
with their exquisite panoplies of disorder.
A person has to work backwards
from that overflowing shelf of concoctions
to ever see the world for what it is:
a place that uncouples itself to admire
the error it keeps making with its double.
This is what time does. Not a line,
or a circle finishing off, but a gasp
bent on the pleasure of coming true
on its way out from the chest.
In these matters there is no conclusion
except the way I seem to stare into every pond
and think of swanning down, how
if I looked back I might see no ripple
between where I stood and the gulf behind me.
Some things are universal enough
they must be pointed out.
We triple up in laughter
to see how often and how commonly
what we never saw played out around us.
The glance, the doubleshake of joy,
the inhalation that takes the comedy in
and turns it straight to morbidity.
I find it funny to imagine how far below
the earth I will depose myself in the end,
I who am so afraid to be off the ground,
so frightened by the high places
I try to never go and can’t look away from.
And what if a snow’s treasure should fall
on my deep place, making it still deeper
for a time, and more impossible to find:
yes, I am afraid to be imagined,
for how honest it feels to be looked at
and how ecstatic,
how deceitful, to be seen.
My mind is sometimes repeating
the same phrase when I wake up.
What I say to myself is not of consequence.
Divinity is in phrases then, and variation,
lain together in uniform ways,
the sense of which is far too easy to forget
and remember without meaning to.
This is how closely I can approach god,
the waterlight sunshine on the pillow
playing next to my face’s free stillness.
The sham fullness of the earth is undermined,
the rambling green distances erase themselves,
the ice cliffs diminish from their vasts,
and the smooth bodies of childless women
reflect no light.
The train whistle, one mile too far off,
it goes the other way,
the last thing for someone else to hear
while my consequences narrow in silence,
and I play with the speckles on my hand.
CHRISTINE GOSNAY's first book, Even Years (Kent State University Press, 2017), won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared recently in Best American Poetry 2020, POETRY, Image Journal, AGNI, The Missouri Review, and The Poetry Review, and has featured on Poetry Daily and Verse Daily. Her chapbook, The Wanderer, was the 2019 title in Beloit Poetry Journal's Chad Walsh Chapbook series, and her chapbook The Double Slit Experiment was published by The Offending Adam in April 2021. She lives in the Santa Cruz Mountains in California and has a website at www.thewritechristine.com.