Anastasia maps

Devi S. Laskar

USA

Each night my handiwork charts Calypso’s serenade, the arrival
of things that can only be made from scratch, a second language
learned by the precisionist as she struggles with asps and the correct
pronunciation of ochre. Every terminal is a going-away party, a tearful

reunion with those whose hands I shake. How I barter away
your first mother just as I buy and sell black marble, stopping for no
one; stealing gala apples from the farmers who plant seeds in rusting
cans, the docks chopped and stacked for the sake of cooking fuel,

the smell of chicory in the morning as coffee brews. I lay waste
in this bone-white dress, refusing to sit in the back of the bus, I fear
my own shadow once history lessons are recited for the last hour,
before a call to the barber shop, a trip to the big tent and the theatre

of the operating table begins, before Phoebus calls it quitting time.
Cherubs turn into rain, the tendril oaks guard their Civil War dead,
only in America only in America is the country song refrain; and I can
neither answer nor translate what they mean, those people who chant

their stories as if their very lives depended on it. A meandering opus,
the way the merchants and my grandmother haggle over the price
of bitter gourd. But we all pay handsomely for Persephone’s meagre
dinner every autumn. Our laughter is a diaphanous red dress in a dog-

eared photograph. I see my own eyes staring back at me just as they
were before I breathed in the first winter air, before I watched over
the emptying plates and the children swimming in the snake grass,
before I named our dolls and we drew their histories with our fingertips

onto the night chalkboard. Stars wink and nudge their farewells,
a Morse code I can only admire for its distant drumbeat. This is the age
of reverse resurrection, the projector playing the reel as I watch
the cast of characters who are all me, who are all you, walk backwards

toward their stellar beginnings, to a time before evolution. They are sure
footed as they know what happens next, what has already happened
and will happen again. They are clocks pulsing time and space; there
are ghosts in the antiquated machine and they know their place.