Lucy Harlow grew up in England and Hong Kong, and currently lives in Philadelphia. Her poetry has appeared in Bracken and her fiction in Aliterate; she is a Ph.D. candidate in English at Princeton.
WHEN I WAS A RAINBOW
when I was a rainbow,
I was perfect nothing, nothing
of substance or spissitude, nothing
of particularity or place; I
only a truth at the intersection
of cloudbreak and sundown,
bent unseen athwart the sea spray; I
inevitable, invisible, voiceless and precise,
until, unsought, I find your eye.
now I am not truth but an array
of these intercessors, sense, and light is thick
and turns to dust bending in the arc of the eye.
our eye, now, my dear, my self, I lost in
vellum over crushed blood-red cochineal, and
oh, your soul all lampblack, cold as earth,
remembers when I was a rainbow, wonder-forged
rain-quenched, and new,
a swell of flame bent round
by cloud-bellows, wind-washed,
deep, deep dug from jewelled sky-sillion;
remembers how powder-bright the smoke indigo skies over the wild waste
of the whale’s path on the mere,
and drowned asters on the saltmarsh where the murex stalks, my dear–
I have never been able to show you how I could abide in a tear,
or, spectral in your heart and fading fast, suffer you to
remember when I was light, though all around me that deep sky
only lapis, with pyrites for stars.