Thérèse As Odalisque

Because this is the passing

and not the dream, I slough off

this ribbon and cross the cherry orchard

in a single breaststroke,

You made the ribbon a river.

You dipped my night in Egyptian blue.

What is the cat, the bowl, the lamp
                                             to you?

Everything is familiar.

You move through the world
                   with the exultation
of a pharaoh in his tomb.

But I leave house and country.

I greet the hedgewitch rubbing in the hazel.

I league with the beeches.

My knees,
          which once reasoned
with your most unreasonable requests,
are mud-loved.

I look upon the sea

because familiarity and truth

are two women gazing in two wells.

I wear my best dress.

Esther Lin was a 2015 Poets House Emerging Poet and Queens Council on the Arts Fellow, with poems in or forthcoming in The Cortland Review, Duende, Hyphen, Memorious, and elsewhere. She teaches in the English Department at Queens College, CUNY.