Desire, if ever found,
            if ever hauled up with a deep hook
and stripped

of its algae and rust
           and sanded down
and burnished to its new
           seawashed sheen
                      (a smoothness, an interiority

might save. That lucky ship
           is years gone from the harbor,
no word delivered home
           though the crew
                      surely wrote at every port.

Turning away from you
                      and you from me
           in our bed, falling into shared

silence in a curtained room
           is perhaps like this,
or perhaps
           nothing like this.


Some men carved
                      their wives’ faces
           into the whales’ teeth
they saved
           from the try-pots—
in their bunks
                      (their lamps lit
           with spermaceti) they caressed
the horned pearl
           or in fair weather worked
on deck. The slip
                      of a finger might make her
a mermaid, leg-line
           curling into a tail—
or give her a child
                      clinging to the hem
           of her woolen dress.


And looking up at a sky
           without a city
to blunt it

                      (I never said
           I was lonely)

is a wonder:
the cetacean world
           cavorts in the heavens.

How to explain the depth

           (I never said it but perhaps
                      it still was true)

—the depth of such desire
           not to have a body

at all, but be

                      In other words
           be the flame

not pilot light
           but fire in service
of itself.


Rachel Richardson

Jeremy MirandaUntitled (oil on canvas)