I kissed him and he bit. I offered my pink little breast
and he fussed.—Who has never felt stunted?
The tongue, the tooth, the wing, the hoof:
any part could be of use. What animal,
do you reckon, would suction be the stomach of—
Men in cloaks across the street in single file at dusk. Rays
from somewhere underneath them bathe their benthic faces.
We came out from the gallery, the Guggenheim Exhibit. Perhaps
it was a Kupka, a Kandinsky, or Chagall—forces from those
halls that frayed the veil. Trees against the winter welkin—nerves
exposed and frozen. Smoke contorting into orbs of cinder-blue
pollution. We take to the car; I claim the passenger seat and yield
to sleep. There a tale unfolds in which the hero is a hole—the
gap he tumbles into. An aperture and lantern-like, Lamp Black.
Open as a nose and throat, hollow as a hose. Tubular and spooling
Says, Here be Laxnes, here the stream. Ford it, take the acreage,
bend the breadth. Leaning in, I whisper in his ear, Don’t heave me,
Long Nose. He’s skittish as a kite-tail in an updraft. My gut assumes
the tilt of his fetlock tölting up the hill—alluvial-green, confettied
with pebbly pockets, matted grass. The half day-moon—diaphanous,
a cataract on azure. The river hardly ripples except when he snorts.
Says, Trolls be here, get ready, and the others kick up dust. My ride
slows to trot; dallies and I turn my cheek to the wet-sock neck of
his scent. A kittiwake lands on a branch; we view the rudimentary toe.
Wind trips over the matted grasses, slips behind a tree.
A drumming from the trunk, or is it Long Nose throwing his whinny.
There’s no fill-in for the word horse.
Pony won’t do, nor mule. The herd is vanished, over the slope,
beyond the empty bend. The bend ascends and quickens now
we’re siblings going back.
Max remains in his seat as the train approaches his destination.
That no one knows his whereabouts
appeals to his sense of sadness.
He smirks at the apparition in the window—it’s himself,
imagining Franz Kafka
might have sat in this very seat
and smirked at his own sad visage in the window
A pain beneath his scapula shoots suddenly into his shoulder as
the wingtip of a jackdaw flaps his image in the glass.
He thumbs the knotty spot on his back and notes the synchronism:
He’s always called that knot his ‘wing-insertion’.
The sepia print shows W.G. (Max) Sebald and Franz Kafka sitting
in a train seat gazing out the window, Sebald superimposed on Franz—
like cumulus over nimbus. Kafka’s wingtip ears project beyond the frame
of Sebald’s face. A furtive smirk on both men’s lips—like cirrus under stratus.
Alone on the upper deck last night, I saw a flying saucer circle
slowly over the ship. The giant iris blinked and winked away.
Years ago at En Harōd, lying on a grassy slope, first night
in the country, I saw a thousand comets fall and fizzle into black.
I made a wish, then two, then ten … finally cried all night.
Afterwards I learned they are an annual phenomenon.
But timing, at the time, made them miraculous, a pivot.
As January turns her back, maybe the chronomantic
sign is light. The moon and stars are merging
and their shadows > great white hoofs.
Elana Wolff’s poems have recently appeared (or will appear) in Canadian Literature, EVENT, The Dalhousie Review, The Boneshaker Anthology, Leveler, Prairie Fire, and The Antigonish Review. Her bilingual collection of selected poems, Helleborus & Alchémille (Noroît, 2013; translation by Stéphanie Roesler), was awarded the 2014 John Glassco Prize for Translation. Her essay, “Paging Kafka’s Elegist,” winner of the 2015 Edna Staebler Personal Essay Contest, appears in Issue 136 of The New Quarterly.