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The cottage still leans from the hilltop

in January, but the sand is snow

and Little Sebago is thick ice 

deep enough for a day hike. I light 

fires in the polished red boiler. 

I turn all the burners on high 

until they are red hot. 

The air is thicker over their

incidental incandescence. 

The radiance warps space. Now nothing 

has a form: sinewy and struggling, 

a spirit wakes into the updraft, 

billows around kitchen cupboards,

leaks through the ceiling. To keep 

warm, I go to the bedroom above it 

and ask the spirit to pass over me.


The ripped up grass uncovers clay 

the color of wet blood: Manipal

and Atlanta have this in common.

The fevered bus stumbles dizzily 

through the mountains and twenty 

four of us slosh in its wet gut. 

Parallel lines pass under us

perpendicular to our pack trail: 

train tracks sharpen to convergence, 

penetrate dense canopy beneath 

a leaning sky. I long to enter. 

Two weeks later I am on the train.

It sloshes over flat clay as

the sunrise pools red in rice fields.

Men wander toward the tracks,

squat into the reeds and empty themselves.

Achilles is the kind of person

no one wants to come home.

His capacity for violence is praised

unless he kills someone in the wrong place.

He does not know how lonely he is

or does not show it. Cooks eggs,

sands a cleat for the kitchen shelf,

waters wildflowers and his pot of basil.

In the evening I see him through 

a doorway, icing his heel in the blue light 

of American Ninja Warrior. He mocks 

the overwhelmed onlooker rendered 

speechless at his wife’s victory. 

Man up. No one else has seen 

the thirty five millimeter portrait.

Flickering, Achilles looks up from 

the family dog and smiles with 

his whole, bony, ten year old frame. 

But that was three thousand years ago

in summer.


I go back, under the canopy of pines,

through three thousand years, to the cottage

in the snow. I light fires. I turn all the burners on.

I wait for darkness, walk out on the lake

and stand under everything. In the morning 

a universe of dust hangs

in the bedroom window. Every scent is sharper

in the cold: pine, sand, summer water rotting

the floorboards. Their parallel lines 

sharpen to a convergence I can’t hold. 

Outside the sky passes over, slow 

and forever. The portrait flickers.

I light the burners 

and let the spirit pass over me again.

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