First Woman: The Building Katja


Despite what I said, she walked in
the foundation site as I visited
the shop of the glassblower. Tell me
we are just alike,
I said to him in a low
voice, indicating her with my chin as she
picked her way among the concrete pilings,
raised one arm to balance on a slab of wood.
He chuckled and gestured that I should take the tube
dipped in hot glass, and despite temptation, not inhale.
Under his watchful eye I breathed
blue-black, a perfect sphere.
You can still go back, he said, but you can
be like other people. Which will it be?

His laughter was sharp, painful as the mirrors
all around his shop I used to avoid,
that now showed me: a respectable woman dressed in black.
Her eyes doubtful, lips poised.
The window,

                    I said, looking already at her at a distance,
desperate to remember. Once I did
tricks with contraceptives, wore
a tattoo of illicit substance, my bones
glowed in the early morning hours,
I am sure I said I had nothing to lose.

Weren’t you wrong then, as you long
to be wrong now,
he shrugged,
not everyone works in these media.
Sometimes you can’t know if it’s you
or the glass that’s broken, that separates
along a clean, planned line,
that’s free, smooth and dangerous in its fine edge.
But cracked and faceted still
are not the same.

Forgive her, he said, his gaze following mine,
as she grew smaller and smaller, trash blowing around her,
receding like a boat sailing
away, or perhaps an illusion—my eyes
were full of tears. And as time
drained from the unlit shop in the sudden twilight
the silence between us slowly turned,
a child’s blue pendant on a shining thread.

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February 2002 2River