After Ken Burns

By Laura Kasischke Laura Kasischke
The beautiful plate I cracked in half as I wrapped it in tissue paper—
as if the worship of a thing might be the thing that breaks it.

This river, which is life, which is wayfaring. This river,   
which is also sky. This dipper, full of mind, which is   

not only the hysterical giggling of girls, but the trembling   
of the elderly. Not only   

the scales, beaks, and teeth of creatures, but also   
their imaginative names (elephant, peacock) and their   
love of one another, the excited   
preparations they sometimes make   
for their own deaths.

It is as if some graceful goddess, wandering in the dark, desperate with thirst, bent down and dropped that dipper   
clumsily in this river. It floated away. Consciousness, memory, sensory information, the historians and their glorious war . . .
The pineal gland, tiny pinecone in the forehead, our third eye:   Of course   

it will happen here. No doubt. Someday, here,   

in this little house,   
they will lay the wounded side by side. The blood
will run into the basement through the boards. Their ghosts are already here, along   
with the cracked plate wrapped in old paper in the attic,   

and the woman who will turn one day at the window to see   
a long strange line of vehicles traveling slowly toward her door, which

she opens (what choice does she have?) although she has not yet been born.

Source: Poetry (October 2008).

RELATED CONTENT

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet Laura Kasischke

Subjects Living, Social Commentaries, Gender & Sexuality