The birds are stoned with the humidity
in the sluggish air, the element
condensing on their feathers like beads.
It must feel to them as though their world’s
capsized—it does to me—the dark ground
of lavender clouds, their claws trailing
through the rain pooling in hollows of the sky
warm as an afternoon bath. Smaller air-dwellers
have it worse; lepidoptera, unable to keep
their powder dry, drape over a surface
like a woman sitting down, suddenly, in her dress,
on the steps of the house
with her hair sticking to her forehead, her shoes
lifting from her heels and falling away
like spring’s spent husks.
A collection of gnats become a clump,
all stuck together underneath a leaf,
a dragonfly’s sheeny tissue paper loses its ply
its translucence, everyone stripping off
and mopping themselves, shining with portent,
your fingers are slick on the back of my neck.
Try the trick with the glass, the one in which water
is pushed beyond its talent and doesn’t break.
Dare to hold that invert sea over your head.
It is a machine for the power of extraordinary sight,
a drone, with hungry instincts at the controls,
thoughts of meat and capture.
When at twelve she launches the hawk
into the sky above the Alhambra
it is for information about heaven
corroboration of rumours.
From the hunting air she sees the land
parcelled by olive groves
and the land’s end, the drawn rule
of the inquisition, and then sea.
And when she flies further
understands the townships of water
marked by shining walls,
the shipping regions
blue-blue pieces tessellating
and slowly heaving. What more is there
to be learned? Already
she can see the map of her dominions
laid out in front of her
like a game of chess,
the black queen in her circlet
standing in the desert
like a bolt of lightning
a rent in the air, the fire-trail
of the plummeting hawk
as she stoops to the lark
and lifts it from the air. Talons,
sky whipping away, unbelief.
Sky tilts. Eye is filmy, landscape
falling past irrelevantly. The world contracts and
Juana receives the gold-eyed spear onto her fist,
admires its elegance with the lark,
turning it over, opening
its breast and glutting the palace gardens
with all that has been learned.
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