Miriam N. Kotzin


River Swimmer
                       "A great disorder is an order."

He crushes her hair
in his fist,
wraps it around his hands,
twists it, crushes
until she feels
all the molecules of her body
invisibly rearranging themselves
until she has changed irrevocably
become though not without shame
Elizabeth Barrett Browning counting.

I fear the sonnet form cannot contain
my feelings, Robert dear. And yet it must.
because I sit and think about those long
and dreary years at home before you wrote.
You filled my room with flowers bright. My shat-
tered lungs were taken by surprise. The fra-
grance filled my room while you were writing let-
ters that would fill my life until such time
as you yourself would come. We stole away.
I never thought to have such strength. And when
it failed, you took me in your arms and up
the stairs, across the stream (Vaucluse) remem-
ber, dear? How do I love thee? Let me count
the ways and find the form.

He kisses her eyelids.
She is afraid to open her eyes,
to see how it looks now.

'Lisbeth what you felt
when Browning unbuttoned your white bodice,
slipped off that linen:
you lay quiet,
trembling as the whiteness fell
from your body and you, darkly waited;
his gaze, his hands moving over your slightness.
The spaniel was banished,
you mastered, inadequacies
vanishing under his direction;
you forgot to worry about your breasts,
your coloring, your hips in his hands
until oh

            I know how it was
your body a confused landscape of hills
and valleys suddenly ordered, then again
changing as his hands re-created you.

My body becomes a river,
swift: you, a strong swimmer;
the river flows with no banks,
swimmer; I, river, current,
am carried by current
towards you, towards, lagging,
towards with with with again
again with with with with
you, swimmer.


Arachne Dances for the Man Who Loves Spiders

I, Arachne, dance
though it's weaving I'm known for.
In both are patterns:
intricate, revealing.

Poison is a woman's weapon;
and I, Arachne, have a use for venom.
But I can kill in other ways,
weaving webs so beautiful
that no man who loves
spiders can destroy them.

Spinning in my dance,
I spin for bombex mori,
the silkworm, who spins her coffin

               Think of Arachne
when you hurtle through dark tunnels
of subways and catch the flash
of a window shattered like a web.
In the center is the record of danger.
In the center of the shattering
is the blasted record of Arachne.

I, Arachne, who spun against wisdom,
paid. Grotesque now, spinning,
I dance only for the man who loves
spiders, weave only for him now.
I hang suspended,
and hanging remember: my work
destroyed, my death withheld.



The maples sweeten with the season;
the crepuscular landscape is harmless.
Through drawn curtains I glimpse
hidden interiors, dimly lit.
I wonder whose lives, in passing
I've flattened into a set.
This is the time to learn
how to trust in darkness.

Unseasonably you mention peach blossoms
"White in the wind." We are far
from peach orchards. All country
is the same to you. Peach blossoms
are not white. They are pink.
To you orchards of blossoms
are nothing but poetry.
I've studied blossoms,
feared late hard frosts,
waited to climb for the highest fruit,
known sun, the crick in the neck picking,
known the weight of fruit.
"Petals like snow."
I say nothing. Instead

I lean towards you
as I lean into the wind,
drawn off balance,
seeking new equilibrium.



This is the place my father, dying, chose
to lie. His parents, here, grandparents, too,
an aunt, a brother. Surely he’d propose
we gather here. And what were we to do?

We’d acquiesce, of course. For why review
the pros and cons of place? It was forgone
we’d go along then go along. We knew
we’d land here, crammed together in a lawn.

I guessed I’d be the last to see the view
on visits. To see that no one follows
I do not look behind. There is no queue
descending unless fate should interpose.

And when, at last, to this place I have been sent,
Earth, be both caul and best integument.