A great grandmother, rigid, propped,
her pink gown recalling the balter of dances,
her hair white and ratted, cheeks rouged red as a fever,
mouth sewn to trap the coo of lost loves, the quack and rasp
of cigarette laughs, and her doughy, garlic heart,
pickled beneath her frame.
A cousin and I dared each other, plodded into the room,
to touch her dead finger. I remember the pale,
wrinkled digit, the blue vein that piped
through her thin skin like the surface of an opal.
And the nothing that came behind it.
No backlit choir, no stentorian chants, floor cracking
like a faultline, purgatory or perdition, trumpets or harps,
no locusts, boils, quasars
aurating through stained glass, or wax streaming
down candles like ichor,
just the feral chatter
of those left, the mumble and stammer
of living flesh.
I remember, too, my cousin and I later
jumping through lawn sprinkler jets,
mud pulping through toes,
and that cold ice of early spring pipes, hissing and surging
up to shock our bodies and affirm this,
the quickening we had longed for all day.
My husband says, “Drink,”
and I scarf the sharp, hopsy brew
to the Ancient Aliens refrain,
“Ancient astronaut theorists say yes!”
Von Daniken barks in my dreams
next to the Greek man
with pine needle hair. The scholar
who says, “some kind of”
as “some coined of” warbles
his earworm inside me.
They suggest lacunas in our history
as wide as the lymph rivers
pumping through us, fissions
in our past that we have snapped
away inside a Pyrex lid.
The fancy in us loves the ridiculous,
the fantasy too, in the twee of Sunday dusks,
the deep, eager notes of the voiceover asking,
“What if? What if?”
and imagining that alien visits
explain the genius of Einstein and Tesla
and Turin, the megaliths of Giza,
that a global conspiracy connects
Area 51 with rulers from Huangdi
to Odin and solves the riddles of cattle
mutilations, crystal skulls, and crop circles,
that drifting through the frozen
plane of our consciousness, fragile,
and gossamer thin, we have known
the answer for centuries,
that as we eat our chips and sip our beer,
our eyes tight on the screen,
a space station full of our alien
cousins watch us on the dark side
of the moon, bask in our ignorance,
cheer and gulp from steins
of stardust as my husband repeats ludicrous.