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
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
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.