Elizabeth Spires


Letter from Swan’s Island

The island’ s dark tonight.
The radio crackles with static, news
of a blackout, the voice
coming through first loud, then soft,
as if a storm were moving
to cut all lifelines off. My one-room
cabin has a bed, a table, a chair.
Living this way, I understand better
that scene by an anonymous
illuminator: a row of monks
eating at a rough table, diagonals
of light slicing across the room
to fall, as if by accident,
on their simple meal. The black
and white tiles on the floor

Mansion Beach


I count the rays of the jellyfish:
twelve in this one, like a clock to tell time by,
thirteen in the next, time gone awry.

A great wind brought them in, left them here
to die, indifferent time measured by whirling moon
and sun, by tides in perpetual fall and rise.

Englobed, transparent, they litter the beach,
creatureless creatures deprived of speech
who spawn more like themselves before they die.

I peer into each and see a faceless
red center, red spokes like a star.
They are, and are not, like what we are.

Waving Goodbye

The world bends us to its purpose.
In the public gardens, we found
a “gazing globe” balanced
on a waist-high pedestal,
a silver ball a foot in circumference,
reflecting sky and ground,
ourselves as we stood above it.
We stared into its depths,
as in a crystal ball,
our faces large and wild,
arms and legs unnaturally small,
as if a spell were on the world,
or, finally, we clearly saw the world
for what it was: too brightly
shining, circular, unadorned.