Isaiah built a house of cards with one
hundred twenty aces: he found a patch
of dirt beneath a willow tree and that
is where he made his house. A simple house,
but tall, growing from the ground with a steep-
pitched roof, and so many floors, but never
a staircase. No chimney either, for one
slight puff of smoke would blow the whole house down:
the aces would go flying everywhere!
It was delicate work, and Isaiah
was careful to hold his breath with every
laying of a card: glossy ace upon ace.
The boughs of the willow shivered as he
looked marveling at his little masterpiece.
She looked marvelous, but a little piece
of dandelion fluff caught in her hair.
Madeline sat down in a field of wind,
picking at the flowers, pulling their roots
like light bulbs out of their sockets – not fast,
but twisting them, making an idle guess
as to when they might come undone. She let
the stems fall into the lap of her skirt:
now and then, the wind would take one away,
blowing it with her perfumed breath to some
other corner of the far field. Resting
on an elbow, Madeline counted stars
until she forgot what number she’d reached,
only to begin forgetting again.
To begin forgetting again: only
a matter of time until the bluegreen
waves turned gray because he’d watched the water
for so many days. A cold wind lifted
the hem of his jacket, and Henry turned
his eyes to the heavens to see whether
his fortunes were good. He pulled out some things
for writing and tried to unstiffen his
fingers, all contracted with salt. Slowly
he set about the work: images of
words flitted in the briny air, small mis-
remembered ghosts laughing around the ship.
Henry made his mouth in a little O,
swallowed down air, sealed his quiet letter.