Torah, Paint, and Obscurities of Desire

by Carol Alexander
They are parsing and drowsing
in the temple dusk, flies overwintering
in a bema of wood. Theirs is the patience
of crossword puzzlers. This morning, one
turned my hat straight-ways, cut the eyes
from blackened spuds. I'd been reading
Greek myth and lapping up spittle
of angry Hera, picturing virginal blood,
victims of Olympian rape.
This superiority of the chosen flesh--
girls who call down priapic gods.
Spangled in their beauty. Running hands
over knobby knees and pancake chest,
well out of the mirror's sight.
Brushing teeth, picking mold from furred violets,
I commit such multiple heresies, investing
all that I touch with a ten-penny soul. So bitter
to be told what can't possess a soul.

        * * *

The merchants of beauty are in love with Susanna;
her flesh has the sheen of an ousel preening.
Their robes balloon from the shock of her breasts
and though they are dreary, they bear desire
in its maggoty skin, knowing more
than Susanna, each clever as an egg in his wickedness.
The elders pun, naming the apocryphal trysting tree;
their teeth chew mastic and churn out lies.
And in truth, there are certain limits to the theme.

             * * *

The ink on the river girl is barely dry.
She wrings damp tropes from silken robes,
lulled by the temple's  little brass bells.
She is blissfully left alone. Golden carp flitter in the pool.
Every day I see her and she smiles at me, a balm on desire;
I recognize that this is peace. Her soul if a soul
is the palest jade of seven soughing willow leaves.
Limbs lightly sketched, her eyes are less clear than those of the carp.
The river merchant loves her, the way a frail hand grasps at smoke.

Carol Alexander is the author of the chapbook Bridal Veil Falls (Flutter Press, 2013), and the poetry collection Habitat Lost (Cave Moon Press, 2017). Her latest poetry book, Environments, is scheduled for publication by Dos Madres Press, 2018. Recent and forthcoming work can be found in Home Planet News Online, Southern Humanities Review, SWWIM Everyday, J Journal, Leveler, Third Wednesday and The Main Street Rag.

© 2018, Carol Alexander