Unfastened avidly from each ivory button
of her spine, the voluntary muscles open
virtuosities of red: Cinnabar
the mutagen, and carmine from cochineal
born between fog and frost, so many little
deaths Buddhists refuse to wear
robes soaked in its thousands. Sunsets
of other centuries fade in galleries to ash.
Red is fugitive: As the voice, the blow
of gravity along a nerve opening to an ache
the body can’t unhouse: As the carnation
suffusing cheek and haunch like saucers
from the king’s porcelain rinsed in candlelight.
Gratuitous as the curl, the urn-shaped torso,
the pensive, brimming gaze of pretty
post-coital thought she half-turns over one
excavated shoulder. As if to see herself
in a mirror’s savage theater as elegy
to the attempt to fill an exhausted form,
to learn again the old ordeals of wound
and hand and eye. To find the source of burning.