For today's entry of The Celestial Monochord, my heartfelt thanks to Minneapolis poet Jennifer L. Willoughby. Her first book of poems, Beautiful Zero, will be published by Milkweed Editions in late 2015. Contact her @hellowilloughby.
The Monochord has also published her poem "Thank You Mr. Sagan."
This is the eleventh installment in my mission to post one entry to The Celestial Monochord every day for the month of February.
YOUR WIFE AS KRAKATOA, 1883
Did you hear that ravishing blast?
That was your wife.
Her explosion shocked even the smallest Australian sheep
eating green turf over 3000 miles away.
At Western festivities
languid relatives patted her head,
thinking she was pretty and backwards,
thinking she was alcoholic and strange.
Did you see wings of independence bobbing in her shoals,
did you see infants listening while she sang about England?
She being tame as cocoa,
a little armchair nation stationed next to Java.
Gentlemen whispered, inferred frigidity.
She being a slow colonial outpost
of the spice islands, shanghaied and traded,
her pepper and cloves seasoning putrefying meat.
Your wife was the kind of woman
who wore silk and went bare foot,
plumes of juniper spiking her hair.
Pye-dogs, the wandering mutts of Asia,
followed her whistles, lapped her salty knees.
She could tell time with a shadow & a pin.
She was good at falling in love with the peacock generation.
She had a fling with the Wallace Line,
raising eyebrows over glasses of gin.
They got down to business
with the poison flowers,
the strangling weeds,
the scavenging avians.
Your wife was either a shrew or a shrewd captive of nature.
In one day,
your wife destroyed life as she knew it,
went cackling madwoman, breaking the stone gates
of her oceanic laboratory, boiling down your horded annual capital
to a glutinous stew of paper boats, torn orchids and molten bones.
No one could hold her.
The shock wave of your wife traveled the earth seven times.
Her ashes sat in the lungs of merchants in Singapore like black milk.
She hotwired barometers from Bogota to DC and flung her aerosol spray
of sapphire and emerald suns to tango with the equator.
Your wife killed 36,417 people.
Your wife sent corpses sailing to Africa on pyres of steaming pumice.
Your wife was 10,000 times as strong as Hiroshima's atomic bomb.
Your wife was the mother of it all.
Some future tourist scouring the beach
for chambered shells or shiny tiki treasures
might know nothing about your wife.
Scientists have added your wife to their alphabetical jars
of formaldehyde, saline and amber. Etched her face on a fossil.
She fooled honest men in New York and New Haven.
They drove fire trucks to quench hallucinatory afterglows
as she rouged the sedate evening with mirrors of flame.
Forget your wife.
She was not beloved.
Her unusual sunsets continued for years.