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The Garbo Cloth

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For Marybelle

Her daughter wrote back to say my friend had died
                     (my friend to whom I wrote a letter maybe twice a year).
From time to time I'd pictured her amid strange foliage
                     (and in a Mongol yurt, for she was fond of travel).
Why not a flock of something darkening the sky, so we would know
                     (ah, so-and-so is gone!)?
For a woman from the city, this might perhaps be pigeons
                     (blacking out the sun).
Or else a human messenger, as once when she was fabric shopping
                     (bolt of green silk furled across her body)
Garbo passed, and nodded. At Macy's years ago
                     (when I was not a creature in her world).
Of course she bought the cloth, but never sewed the dress
                     ("a massive stroke, and I take comfort in the fact
                           she felt no pain.")
Logic says we should make omens of our Garbos and our birds
                     (but which one bears the message? which one just the mess?)
From the kayak, I've seen pigeons nesting underneath the pier
                     (a dim ammoniated stink)
where one flew into my face. I read this as a sign
                     (that rancid smash of feathers)
but couldn't fathom what it meant, trapped in the lag-time
                     (of an oracle's translation).
Foolish mind, wanting to obliterate the lag and why—
                     (let memory wait to catch up to its sorrow).

Source: Poetry (May 2007)

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This poem originally appeared in the May 2007 issue of Poetry magazine

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The Garbo Cloth

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