Night In the Formal Garden


Black lilies on black water. Where inky

tendrils coil into ink. Is it night


that you recall, or night weíve fallen into?


As many months without you now

as with.


        A red light in black water.


And the single body lathes in sleep

its tangled manufactury of dream.


The body alive to its impulse, trying to crush it. 


Again. Again. Again. Again.


      Red light in black water.


As if it could renounce both noun and verb


for a black street in the city where deer are seen to cross.


        The sign that indicates.


         As if between curb and wood

there could be truce.


What use to say, I rememberó


      What use begin, I dreamed the weeks


       were like a yellow thicket, broken back?


You donít believe in ritual. Nor I

in consolation. 


     Red paper on black water.


What would be sodden

if I picked it up.


How, seeing none, the body


cleaves against its form. It wills a force

to hold it


      down, crush out the light,


  tear out its silken wish.


        But none arrives to break it.

  The weeks grown up like garrisons, like law.

        White snow on black water.

Forgive the body her insistent prayer--




Permit a clamped horizon, a peach treeís puny fruit.


Because when you asked my name, I startled back

into my skin. The blot on my nib an inkling. Our bodies snagged in the trace


of all our prior movements as if in a bolt of cloth, a ball of string. So motion

is a textile art. I thought I had to circle back, thereby undo my steps. But press


or disassemble,

some things keep wanting to be. The burl


of your hair, for instance: this yolk and caul

that winter in an egg.


And the migratory light that banks along the wall

could be called insistence


if this story of a body

would not be divvied, would not be denied.


Donít name it harbor, thrush, or breath. My faulty understanding

reconnoitered by the wind.


At Horseneck, the galloping ocean sweeps me out.


Anne Shaw is the author of Undertow (Persea Books), winner of the Lexi Rudnitsky Poetry Prize. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Harvard Review, Black Warrior Review, Copper Nickel, Drunken Boat, and New American Writing. She has also been featured in Poetry Daily and From the Fishouse. Her extended experimental poetry project can be found on Twitter at