As the Days Pass

As the Days Pass
by Theodora Goss

As the days pass, as we talk less and less,
you seem more and more like someone I made up,
a bedtime story to keep away the dark,
a bulwark against the night that is coming on
so insistently, on furred black feet, like a cat,
so affectionately, like death, rubbing itself
against my shins, asking to be picked up
and settled on my lap.

You were a storybook prince, or a pirate ship.
You were a forest in which I used to wander.
You were a tune that played whenever I felt
despair or loneliness. Sometimes you became
a lucky coin that I carried in my pocket.
I lost it somewhere, perhaps as I walked through the city.
Perhaps you are lying on some icy sidewalk,
shiny side upward. You were a magic potion
that tasted like raspberry cordial.

If I made you up, how did I manage to do it?
Did I sculpt you out of clay, or stitch you from leaves?
Or what is more likely, since it is February,
did I make you out of snow, a living snowman?
No wonder you are starting to disappear,
as inevitably as spring replaces winter.
Soon, perhaps, you will melt away altogether
and I will be left standing in a puddle
of brackish water on the damaged asphalt,
staring at my own reflection, behind me
only the bare branches of an oak tree
against the empty sky.

(The image is Rippled Surface by M.C. Escher.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Nonsense Sonnet

Nonsense Sonnet
by Theodora Goss

You’re sad and I’m sick, and I’ve run out of words.
You’re sick and I’m sad, and there are no more chords.
We speak a different language, that the birds understand,
but you are too far away for me to take your hand.
The bees and flowers speak it, the wind and leaves and snow,
but where it is I’m going, you cannot follow.
Anyway, you may be just a dream after all,
melting with the icicles as spring reverses fall,
reflected in puddles the color of your eyes,
as bright and insubstantial as the hues of morning skies.
If you are, I’ll dream you a little longer yet,
and you, on your part, try not to forget
that once there were words, and once there was a rhyme,
a reason underneath it all before the end of time.

(The image is The Pilgrim and the Heart of the Rose by Edward Burne-Jones.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

On Beauty

On Beauty
by Theodora Goss

I was trying to describe to you my idea of beauty:
how it consists of complexity within simplicity,
multiplicity within unity,
variety in harmony with itself,
like the serrated edges of a maple leaf,
the hexagonal points of a snowflake,
the gradations of brown on a hawk’s feathers.
It is the tension of the many
within one, like the peaks
of the Rockies, purple at sunset.

I explained it all so badly,
and going back to Hogarth’s line of beauty,
to Addison and Burke and Kant,
would have made the situation so much worse.

And yet look at yourself: singular,
yet infinitely complex,
multiplicitous, variable, like clouds
against an afternoon sky, like the waves of the Atlantic,
like all the visible stars of a summer night,
demonstrating what I mean by beauty
more neatly than any nineteenth-century philosopher.

(The image is The Floating World by Utagawa Hiroshige.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Two Cities

Two Cities
by Theodora Goss

Here, beneath the snows of February,
I think of you, so very far away,
in a city made of poetry and time,
painted like sunflowers and zinnias,
yellow and orange and deep rose,
where sunlight falls on the green river
and people are drinking strong coffee
around glass tables in small caf├ęs.

Here in this city of gray stone
that has barricaded itself against winter,
all the doors shut like eyes, the automobiles
silent on roads covered with ice and salt,
even the pigeons sleeping, feathers ruffled
by a harsh wind blowing from the north,
only the branches of bare trees
creaking like stairs in an old house,

I huddle by the radiator, remembering
when I last walked along those ancient streets
beneath stucco angels and neoclassical gods,
or through squares scented with lavender.
Your words bring it back to me again:
the city of dreams, city of my imagination,
more beautiful because you are in it,
sending me occasional postcards

that I stuff in my pockets so when I go outside
into the bitter air, which freezes tears
against my face, which turns my nose red
and makes my fingers ache despite thick gloves,
I can put my hands in my pockets. Your words,
those images, keep them warm enough
to avoid losing all sensation.

(The image is Woman Leaning with Dog and Still Life by Pierre Bonnard.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Realization

A Realization
by Theodora Goss

One day I noticed that I was standing on nothing at all,
not a floor of wide pine boards fixed down with iron nails,
not a forest floor with last year’s litter of oak leaves,
not a meadow of grasses that would scratch my ankles,
dotted with cornflowers, poppies, and Queen Anne’s lace.
Not even a concrete sidewalk on which puddles
from yesterday’s rains reflected the gray sky.
Beneath me was only darkness.

Like a night without moon or stars,
like a black pigment that absorbs light,
like an empty well without walls or discernible bottom
into which I could fall without making a sound.

I was so afraid that I could not step forward
or backward. I could not walk
in any direction. For a while
I stood there, not knowing what to do
with myself. And then
I started to dance.

(The image is Evening by Gabriel Ferrier.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Mere King

The Mere King
by Theodora Goss

The mere king lives in the murk and mud,
and I would rescue him if I could,
but another witch cursed him long ago,
and how to break it, I just don’t know.
I don’t think the kiss of true love would do,
or I’d attempt it — there’s not much to
the process, though I’m not a princess fair.
You just have to look at my long green hair
to notice that, and my yellow eyes.
I’m attractive in my own way, and wise
in secrets and spells, so I think the king
would find me sufficiently alluring.
But there’s more to it, that’s what I fear,
when he stares down with such despair
at the deep green water in slimy pools
while out of his beard grow pale toadstools
and robins build a nest in his hair.
Sometimes I wish I didn’t care
so much what became of him — a witch
should have no heart, should feel no ache
in her chest at all. Alas for me
that I did not remove it properly
and tie it up in a burlap sack,
then hang it from an ancient oak,
where it would not hear the mere king groan
and weep with pity, and be undone.

(The image is an illustration by John Bauer.)

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Wish

A Wish
by Theodora Goss

And you, my dear, my darling,
what would I wish for you?
That all the stars were starlings,
and all the stories true.

That all the beasts that wander
beneath the darkling trees
would bow to your dominion,
and you would sail the seas

to islands made of amber
beyond the ends of time,
and I could give you all the world
within this silly rhyme.

(The image is by Jessie Wilcox Smith.)

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment