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Kerry Krouse

Wax and Gold V

--after the painting by Wosene Worke Korsof

The city is coated in signs, a lacquer stretching

to the sea that swallows words and returns them


to shore, sparkling and brine soaked. In slack water,

words rub their molting bodies against rocks,


splitting open their skins, peeling them back and off

as they crawl out loose, amorphous. They settle


in tide pools, collecting barnacles and limpets, bodies

growing into the sea, into the earth. A cartographer,


mapping the verified world, sets out on foot

and moves slowly: renouncing blanks, he draws


a street for every street, a tiny x at every door.

The map of the city, grown to the size


of the actual city, is unrolled only at night,

the cartographer paving street onto street, stitching


the dark into the cloth covered sky. Everything

finds its twin: the front door swallows the back,


the perfect curve of the moon slips inside its sleeve,

fish sleep inside their own shadows. In the light


where every object binds its silhouette

to the cluttered landscape, it is impossible to split


the map from the city, the city from the ruins

beneath it, the ruins from the historical exhibit where


tourists stroll the restored cardo posing for photographs

next to the city’s catalogued antiquities. From dark


earth to red, a sequence of layers, each with the same

promise: to wrap cinder inside stone, to seed tarnished


machinery with curling vine. In Wosene’s painting,

the horizon is adorned with a sculpture, night sky


visible through a polished hole cut through its

triangular figure. Letterforms rise from tide pools


and wade into the bay, their reflections shifting in

the rise and fall of water. They take turns curling


their bodies inside the sculpture’s perfect circle,

a window from which they imagine the moon fought


its way free, leaving behind the granite from which

it was cast. Behind them, fields of basalt conceal hills


within hills, the pattern of the land as each old world

is lost to the next, and the wax replaced by gold.


Kerry Krouse lives in Oakland, California and teaches English at Chabot College.  Her work has appeared in The Southern Poetry Review and Appetite: Food as Metaphor, An Anthology of Women Poets by BOA Editions.  

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