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Veronica Kornberg

Gazing Toward Christine Blasey Ford’s Former Place of Employment

After turning back the clock
I rise at five because my body says it’s six.
The dog

waits at the door and I follow him outside, feel the dark
enter me. Black brew filling a tankard.
Black river.

I keep hearing we’re made of star dust. Maybe instead
we are dark matter, that mysterious force
people keep searching for.

Where I live the stars are lavish on a clear night
but it’s the chilly emptiness that flows
in and out of me

as I breathe. Heart, lungs, blood—
nothing inside me has ever seen light,
all parts tick blind inside their skin casing.

Behind me, coiled springs of dried wisteria pods
explode like grenades, seeds spray like autumn buckshot,
Doppler past my ears.

I once stood in a tomb along the Nile, gazing up
at a painting of Nut, ancient goddess stretched across the sky,
her body full of stars—

the children
she kept hidden from her sun-god husband. Imagine
having a belly of light, a mind of phosphor.

It’s mating season for the great horned owls.
Three or four of them call from the pines,
burr the night with black velvet.

Somewhere below the mountains, the sun swims
toward the surface, dragging the so-called scales
of Libra on its long line.

For now, Virgo touches the horizon—naked, winged,
brandishing a palm frond, the planet Mars lodged
in her left hip socket.

From the dark hills in the foreground, one too-bright light
shines gamely from an empty parking lot.
As if a light could keep anyone safe,

I tell myself. But I stand there, listen for the dog
scruffling in the dark, wait for a touch
of vermillion to lip the sky.

Coming Off the Ventilator

Deep in the wreckage, a multitude swims in no discernable direction—random blink of lanterned anglerfish among the ribs, slow drift of a giant sunfish, idle hagfish. Isopod, hatchet fish, tube worm. Remember how we laughed when you tried your hand at rock fishing. You pulled up a crab five times the size of your hand—it grasped the bait with one giant claw and eyed you with seeming glee—a blue-green speckled demon ascended from a hidden world. You wouldn’t touch the thing. Let it plunk itself back into the water. Maybe it’s been hiding inside you, waiting to square off, battle it out. Maybe you’re doing that now. Does the whoosh of the ventilator sound like wave-break on a distant shore? The nurse, that queen of tides, reels you up through the depths of induced coma to waver just below the surface, eyes still latched shut, hands thrashing against tethers. She shouts loudly for you to wake up, but you are nowhere in this room. I drop the line of my voice into your ear, but it angles off, disappears. Now your right hand slowly scallops the bedsheet, and the nurse, so acquainted with the mysteries of this room, places a black-ink marker in your fingers, positions pen tip to yellow paper on a clipboard. Stroke by labored stroke, eyes still closed, you draw by feel alone. I stare at the crooked letters, have no clue what they mean. Lungs? Memory? Thirst? My love, it is time. Your hands are tied to the bedframe only to keep them from reaching your own throat. Hope is the thing with tethers. Your nurse is poised to yank you from the water, haul you up inside her net and leave you gasping on this airy shore.

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