ELIZABETH SKURNICK

 

Persephone in Hades

First we spread out like two twin sheets.
These were white sheets, unberibboned,

and I smoothed them with my bare
hands, ticking off the vines, the pachysandra,

each winter solstice beyond the flowered
bedroom curtains. An acre of soil spread

into a thumbnail of garden: piled and wet,
heaped thriftily. Two moths drifted in the distance

and a dandelion bloomed like a whisker
on the summer side. For years we had grown flat

and placid as the Atlantic, marred only
by an India wind, occasional natterings.

On August evenings we set sail,
I the lookout and you at the helm

traveling faster and further
until we tumbled to the bottom, swallowed

by Neptune in the wake of one enormous burp.
Just above our heads, the sun drifted hazily

Like an inverted, ninety-watt bulb.
We burned off all our eyelashes.

That was us in the days
before a paper bag covered the candle

and the wax burned down to a black stump stick.
(Also: two sieves side-by-side

in the moonlight, while the stars
wept busily at the pluck of a mandolin.)

Have I used up all my shots?
Four fillings, I broke, cracking the ice

in my drinks. You favored gin.
Some nights you’d take a sip and look

up, startled, as if I had entered—
or was suddenly leaving—the room.


Chastity in Gomorrah

Whenever I say I’m on layover
Everyone bursts out laughing.
Suffice it to say my descent has been grim.
I thought dildos ornamented lawns
And you scrubbed your grout with S & M.
Here they wear white, but their edges are tattering.
This lamb falls off its skewer, black
And I clutch my hands at the glass that keeps shattering.