Olympus


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.


 

Narcissus


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.


 

Night Pieces


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.