Molly is the only woman
she knows who talks about herself
in the third person. She used to like
people but now she’s a misanthrope
who has read Moliere.
O, to be a famous recluse!
Molly surprised a shadow
flitting in the mirror behind her this morning.
Every morning Molly’s beauty deepens.
This shadow, Molly tells herself,
is the future. The corpus of your beliefs
shaped by your gaze to be the state
of the art of melancholia modified by
a sublime narcissism – that’s what
she wants as she celebrates herself.
But the shadow wanders in the woods
and gazes at her face in the stream
where outgrown beliefs gather and flow.
And yet among them is a long dismissed city
under the earth, inhabited by potters making
rows and rows of likenesses of Molly accurate
to the mole on her inner thigh, an army of her
waiting like Emperor Qinshihuang soldiers
to surface after an earthquake to possess all men.
There are no outgrown beliefs, Molly, look again.
“Look again at this city of angels, this time
with the sound of a trumpet solo in your ears,”
she tells herself. The advice is easy to pass along,
but she only has eyes for the “you” of the song,
the you who took advantage of “me,” someone
exactly like you, and you get happy,
and Molly has the right to sing the blues.
The Nr.3 train wagon has fallen silent. The plague
is taking her elders. How old are you anyway, dear,
she asks herself. She’s never sure if she’s thirty
or seventy. They say the elders’ harvest has begun.
Are you leaving? Will she remain?
She hears the rain outside and not a word is heard.
This must be the place I will forever report from.
Note: “Paul Violi, whose birthday was July 20, was my workshop teacher when I was starting out. I know this is his birthday because I wrote a poem about the failed attempt to kill Hitler on July 20, 1944, and Paul told me he was born on that very day. So I want to dedicate this poem to him and post it only on July 20.” — MA
Ed. note: The picture above is of Emperor Qin Shihuang.