Seeing and Believing
by J. Anna Jacus
July 2000

Ground Zero

Surface water turns to ice.
I step out
quickly. I slip. Under
the ice, cold begins.
My saturated shoes cannot
resist. Even this
is surface, symptom.

A glance will tell. But I know.
The chill shoots up my legs
and on, until I bristle with
the hatred of the elements.

I am blood
and secrets, too. I could turn.
Inclement as the moment . .
Slippery. Susceptible.


The roses you love
you left
untended this summer.
Two stories up
she judges
from a distance-

Behind the glass
I have seen her cry.
I picture her sunken
in a hard chair
against the wall.

She will take your wedding picture
and place it face down
in her lap.
You must light your cigarette
and walk in the garden.
You will hear the phone ringing
in the house.
Do not go in this time.
Make her come to you, father.

The anger
and the hatred-

A Myth

for my mother


The snow eases off, weakened
under scrutiny.
Bare limbs exposed,
you bow over, mourner
in white. Your daughter
was a maid. Her innocence,
unknowing, invited Death.


You ask again
the same question.
While she languishes above, care more.
This field, your garment
remembers how you cast it off . . .
And will not yield
nor be touched.


Ice. Silence.
Is it not your own?


That day
you composed yourself
in the heat
by choosing pebbles the waves
discarded. You took care
some are treasures
some you will forget
and I tried to understand.

On the edge of my bookcase
I position
the yellow pebbles
you gathered to my lap.

I press this small uneven one
against my palm. I remember
I was your first love. You wanted me
for all your life.

This summer, I will be alone.
The man I love wanted me less than you,
but fought harder for what he wanted.
I cannot understand why
I let you lose.
I cannot understand why any man fights
or loses,
though often, I wonder
what makes a treasure

why one is chosen
over another
determining only the range
of our desire
or fear.

Through the Glass

The trunk slams shut. Gravel
churns, scatters. My eyes blink
half-blind in the glare.
I absorb the solution
you have chosen. The night
unties. I push back
my hair. Devotion
and despair instruct me.

The Dowser

Your heart is carved by choices you withhold.
In sleep, you visit silent chambers there.
You run your fingers through the hordes of gold.
And toss old bones forgotten dangers snared.
If I sealed every entrance, but this one-
Would you make further passage through the dark?
Or would your eyelids flutter as you run,
in sleep, through caverns you have marked?
You brought a knife, though darkness cannot bleed.
And though the shadows know you, do you fear?
You train ambitions you will never heed.
And hurry onward, though you are unclear.
You call to me, yet still, I know you dream.
You cannot reach me as it once had seemed.


I bend down more.
Women have such impossible posture.
On all fours
I remember our portion.

Looking Downstream

Before love, we shaped the question
as a gesture sharing one body.
In this, you came to be.
Someday, I will choose again, recognizing
this is not the joy
that could have been . . . recognizing
the stolen doubts . . .

Who am I
to give or
to give away life . . . Finally
I am glad-though there are some
who call it shame-that I released
the hand sending you, alone
where I was unwilling to go . . .
Alone, together, we knew the difficulty
of beginning. When I chose, you also knew
I could not name you.

You will return
First as grief, then
as a few words a shower of keys
at the typewriter
filling the page . . . a progression.
And then again,
what died was not you-
what you came with
was there at the start and continues.

What died
was the single vision
conceived in you.


After you moved from Montauk
and the dishes
and the dressers disappeared
Not long afterwards, the spaces
between people
descended on me.

After you left
I fed those winter birds
that stayed.

I never imagined
I loved you
for such fleeting reasons
or that love could root itself
in passing-

The first thaws arrived.
Winter stars detached
and regrouped. With a fistful of bills
I bought new rugs
and repainted the walls.

And then, back of the house
one day, the tall narcissus appeared
deciding enough time has been afforded
this season, alone.

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