Naomi Beth Tarle

The Wicker Ladder Maker (Rewrite of The Wanderer)

She squats, sifts the water and finds the sea:
mildewed strips of marble.


She strains, arms to the frost-water,
troubled in heart over old wrack lines.
She wages with shield and sieve
exiled among flotsam and jetsam.
Full-fixed is her fate.


So slumps the earth-walker,
remembering elastic ships,
and fierce dolphin wars.


Often in the closet of night
she speaks her coffer full of corners:
the dead see her palms.


Tight thought box,
nozzled insides.


Muscle creak can’t stave off fate,
nor do vengeful hybrids.


Men eager to protect the vanquished 
shut tissue-paper names in their chest pocket.


Wretched from care, removed from land, far from dears,
she rests her body against the sweetbriar,
and lashes heart thoughts of her garland-friend
covered in the black tar earth.


She crosses woven waves,
cluttered with bleached coral,
no web or chest of keepsakes seeking a giver—
a place salted with amber shavings.


Receive her checkered skin—
she with body, prone and banded.
Sorrow is the woman.


Exile's path awaits her as twisted gold,
pulled like taffy over butcher hooks.


Thoughts of loose spines in suit cases,
no joy, no joy in the earth.


She recalls hallways of shaking animal heads,
how in youth, swords were plastic and wands wired.


All light—varnished.


She who has long forgone riding the wooden horse carousel,
loved and peeling on the last planked pier,
knows when sorrow is too deep to extract
like ornamental shrapnel carried by elders.


She runs on stilts as tall as Babel.
Sleep-bound to the poor—
dweller of scarves.


Her mindscape tongues the desert floor.
She lays her head upon cacti
like in old days when she took part in the midnight raids.


In yellow waves, she sees sand-pipers bathe,
peck at lizards, hail strikes at skin, scales and feathers.


Care renews in her who must again and again
roll over woven dunes:
Therefore she cannot think.


Sew this earth covered of itself.
It gives way to walls of wind covered with rime.


Rubber birds carry some away over the deep sea;
wolves throw many upon rock shards;
other’s are buried as onions in an earth-pit.


So the maker and shaker of kind
lays waste to this dwelling-place
until the works of giants stand idle.


The woman wise in her art
considers the wall and the dark,
remembers her mass of dead

and speaks these words:


                 Where has the Dusky Seaside Sparrow gone?
                 Where is the giver of the young?
                 What of the fasting gaggle?
                 Of four walls?
                 Alas, the gold dust obsession!
                 The shelled bell!
                 The mailed letter!


Time is stained beneath the night's torso.


The wondrous high, decorated with cakes,
stands over traces of the beloved extinct.


The ashen hands—
thick and binding the earth.
All earth is wry.
All habitation shall be evacuated.

So sat the woman
listless in heart,
apart, deep in rump.

She is good who keeps words.