Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Theadora Siranian: Pepper’s Ghost

Before night swarms across the sky—brief slash
of winter citrus at the horizon, then evicted
by darkness. I’m in love again with the idea

of being beautiful, spying my mirrored self
in the dusky half-light. As if only at day’s end
may I be content with my own physicality.

But what I see darts past, sidles in and out,
is vague, porous, not to be trusted. In sleep
I find an egg cratered as the moon floating

in my palm. Obsidian carapace hovering,
murmuring, cracking open to reveal a yolk black
and dense as an animal’s pupil. Limitless

universe, starless galaxy. Midmornings as
a child I watched my mother pray, crouching
in the bedroom doorway, myself supplicant.

Other language, other voice, her face bathed
in tears. Her words like slivered grafts of light
spilling into her steepled hands. The earth

pushing itself round with ancient, fatal patience.
The day swelling, the cicadas beginning
their metal-thresh hum. Always inexplicable:

the cheap plastic statue of the Virgin
on the nightstand—how she kept her face
placid while the arch of one foot remained

planted firmly on the snake’s back. Once,
a neighbor set her house on fire, running
toward us across the field cradling a honey

jar filled with bees, the flames behind her
framing her hair like a halo. I hear
the nothing whisper, palpable as the blood

moving beneath my skin. I break the egg,
lean forward, openmouthed. I am godless.

Originally published in Chicago Quarterly Review (Vol. 27, 2018)

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