Fugue

Virginia Woolf, incested
though her childhood, wrote
that she imagined herself
growing up inside a grape.
Grapes are sealed and safe.
You wouldn't quite float
in one; you'd sit locked
in enough moisture to keep
from drying out, the world
outside though gelid green.
Picture everyone's edges
smudged. Picture everyone
a green as delicate
as a Ming celadon. Pic-
ture yourself a mollusk
with an unsegmented body
in a skin so tight and taut
that you'd be safe. You could
ruminate all night about
the difference between "taut"
and "tight," "molest" and "incest."
"Taut means tightly-drawn,
high-strung. What is tight
is structured so as not to
permit passage of liquid
or gas, air, or light.


From BODY OF LIFE (Tia Chucha Press, 1996)

Poems by Elizabeth Alexander

Absence

Fugue

The Venus Hottentot