Arsenic Lobster poetry journal Issue Thirty-one
Spring 2013
 
Without Sanctuary
           New York City Historical Society and Hayden Planetarium, Spring 2000
Aviva Englander Cristy

Grandmother led me from one hanging body
to the next: here a man burnt beyond

flesh and we cannot turn away; here
the moon in measured perspective

to one man’s heart. We huddle, shoulder
pressed to stranger shoulder, silent

as fear and eyes hardened, necks craned
to read each lettered joy, to recognize

a jaw set in pride, the familiarity of a
neck snapped against gravity, heads tilted

in careful listening, turning aside, hands
bound. In Oxford, Georgia he hangs from

a lamppost, supplicant, eyes raised in search
of light. In Fort Lauderdale the young girls

in starched white party dresses clasp their
hands in rows behind him, lift their radiant gaze

and lean in to their fathers’ Sunday best.
Newbern, Tennessee has two dancing

from a single line; one man almost rests
his head against the other’s shoulder, arms

linked just before an intimate embrace.
I wonder why it is always the children

who smile, why these postcards are addressed
to women. Marion, Indiana, like a lover; someone

has saved a lock of his hair. We step outside, make
our way slowly across the street. Grandmother pauses

on a park bench before moving in to a more
natural history. Entering from the east we are

bathed in glass and urgent rapture, the need
to walk the length of light and time. We rise

slowly, comparative measure: star to moon, hand
to eye, a grain of salt, a human egg, an atom, water.

Descending in spirals, each step forms another galaxy,
another bulge and quasar; each new generation

of stars measured in redshift as we witness
this expansion. She shuffles forward, 50 million years,

leans against me, Acasta Gneiss brightens, draws
me towards the rail, dark matter, a galaxy clusters,

Andromeda. Gravity a lens to multiply and distort.
Diamond dust, trilobite, serrated tooth futile for

65 million years. This temporal ruler imprecise.
Humanity contained in a single human hair.

Grandmother insists we collect each card,
holographic births we can carry away; angle

your wrist to the left, a nebulae spins, turn
to the right, two galaxies collide. We need

proof. The year my grandmother was born
Laura Nelson swayed gently in the wind, arms

unbound, not reaching for her son.
She asks me to hold that crude jubilance

clenched between my teeth as one step
spirals time, shadows the remnants, supernova.

About Aviva Englander Cristy

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