AFTER THE FLOOD
After the flood, we cannot get
the scent of river from our hands,
the rock of water from our bones.
Even in dreams we float
like drowned girls pulled
too late from the river,
our dresses molded like gauze
around us, our eyes pale
and sightless as opals.
Once you swam the span,
bank to bank in minutes,
slicing the river behind you.
Even then it was growing
inside you, this need for distance
the loss of land, of going back.
Now, it rains for days, swelling
beneath the eaves, and already
we have forgotten when you
slipped out the door, into the river,
the boys, their tongues moving
against your throat, white in darkness.
We grow used to absence,
the body's space, its cavity.
Already our mother hangs sheets,
bright and wrinkled in the sun.
Already she is admiring summer,
how it spreads like dandelions
across the floodplain, its whisper
calm and persistent as water.
We are losing you, piece by piece,
like the clothes in the wardrobe,
fallen loose from their hangers,
the yellow blouse, the pink nightgown,
drifting out the windows and down
to New Orleans, where the dead ones rise
up through the ground, wandering the streets,
sadness and jazz in red dresses,
the Mississippi lapping at their knees.
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