How easily then I counterfeited,
traced convincing paths
back to imaginary treasure,
when as a child,
on blank and yellowed pages
torn from the fronts of musty books—
toasted brown in spots over a candle,
burned around the edges,
all to feign age and neglect—
I inked imaginary land masses,
rimmed with jagged shores
and headlong harbors,
charted the surest routes
of navigation and overland passage
with a wending line of dashes
leading to the spot marked X.
How stubbornly now the page remains blank,
the treasure lost.
You surrender; we make military love.
To win this privilege, I put myself in your thrall.
Walk me up and down the beach,
praise me when I fetch—
Shells, pretty stones, beached glass, driftwood.
You lap my shores and smooth the rough edges.
I hold you down, come at you from above—
You are the coral reef, fragile and defenseless below.
But you win, you win, you win—
In the end, I take only as much as you give.
I followed your instructions,
made new beginnings,
typed the words out on strips of paper,
cut them into little pieces
so as to rearrange them like a puzzle
or furniture in a room that does not exist.
And all the time you knew—
there was no paradelle.