by Emma Eisler
no earth-bound love
Spoke the girl to the God of the Sun.
Once, the Sun and the Moon played
tag over meadows and streams,
dipped their toes in oceans at the
edge of continents.
Gave love in streaks of light to girls
petal soft and blue vein delicate.
We met on an archaeology dig in Alaska – a silly way to start a poem, stating facts.
You, our first night there, Tanana Valley in endless daylight, sitting over the steps and swinging your feet. You: I’ll tell you I turn twenty while we’re here, but I won’t tell you on what day. Dark eyes behind your glasses, tall but not lanky so I imagined how strong you must be—how easily you could pull me against you, if only you wanted to.
Me: You won’t need to tell me. I’ll be able to sense it, somehow.
Did you know already I wanted you?
One day the God of the Sun carried
his burden through a meadow of
fireweed and there he met a maiden.
Perhaps this is the wrong way to put
Like he had been carrying the Sun
back and forth across earth and sky
just to find her. Like she had been
keeping a distance from every person
she ever knew, all so the vessel of
her heart would be wide and empty
enough to fit the feeling she had
when she saw that boy on that day.
Later, how I would relish the feeling of being fragile in your arms, head curled in the crook of your neck.
The God of the Sun looked at the girl
for a while, reached out a hand as if
to touch her. How he envied his
brother the Moon, who could
squeeze or stroke any mortal he
pleased without searing her skin.
This is how it is to meet someone you know you will lose.
Your hands holding my wrists above my head; your breath hot in my ear. I wanted, I think, for you to hurt me, if only so my body could be a map to remind me where you stood.
The girl leaned forward, tilted up her
chin and squinted into the eyes of the
God of the Sun, felt the warmth of
his rays on her cheek.
Like being touched. Almost.
In high school, you trained to be an Olympic swimmer. This is one of the first things you told me. We sat side by side on rocks overlooking the highway and mountains. Every once in a while, a truck would pass by and the whoosh of air would lift little bits of pollen, so they floated down around us like snow or powdered sugar.
I asked, do you miss it?
God no, you said. It was easy to stop once I chose to.
Still, I liked to think of you in the pool. Arms sluicing in and out of the water. Skin wavering. How your eyes must’ve looked, staring forward through your goggles. Your focus.
You: My favorite part was going to the comic store with my dad after meets.
The God of the Sun opened his
mouth to speak but could not find the
words. He who could dazzle all the
world was silent. He blinked and for
a moment his light dimmed.
You overflowed with words, at first. Described in lush detail the farm in Paraguay where you grew up, the spring where you filled buckets and drank. The time you stepped on a cactus and your dad had to use hot wax to get the needles out, and your whole family laughed at you, at your shrieks of pain.
The girl said, what is it like to return
to the skies at day’s end?
The God of the Sun responded, it
will be harder now then it was.
You told a mutual friend later; I love the chase.
I am a wild animal too easily caught. Tamed.
Good answer, the girl whispered.
And wasn’t she then already his?
I did guess – the day you turned twenty. We were drinking ginger ales and talking at a barbeque. When I said it, you put a finger to your lips, said, Shh, only you know, but this is my birthday party. Solstice so night never came. So we sat on the rocks that were our rocks and you played a tinny acoustic version of “Something” that was Paul McCartney singing alone through your phone.
How can I write a poem that is more than a list of things I am scared of forgetting?
On the night of the solstice, it seems
the Sun will never set. In some
places, day bends towards night, but
never quite dips far enough to make
way for the Moon and all that
awakes in that lunar dark.
For greedy hours, the God of the Sun
remained with the maiden in the
You didn’t kiss me the first night or the second. Not even the third.
You told me stories.
Some were for everyone: the time when you were a child and wandered into the forest outside your family’s home and a jaguar came from the trees and attacked you. (You paused here for dramatic effect). How if not for your dad running out of the house and scaring it away, you might’ve died. Still, a scar curls round the lower part of your cheek.
Some hadn’t happened yet and were just for me: How there are no more jaguars where your family lived in Paraguay. They’ve all been hunted or lost their homes to deforestation. One day, though, you said, you will go back and turn your family’s land into some kind of wildlife preserve, bring back all the jaguars and birds and frogs you remember.
You will, I said.
The river wound gray blue in front of us, the peaks of mountains cut up into the clouds. Being here makes me so homesick, you said.
For New York or Paraguay?
New York isn’t home.
Just this once, the maiden begged,
remain on earth until night falls. Lay
beside me and watch the light of the
Moon as he winds over the land.
The God of the Sun only smiled,
shook his head.
I was so willing to love you—I’ve been thinking about it. What is it that happens sometimes when we meet people?
We give ourselves away before we are even asked.
The maiden requested, then, at least,
give me something to hold onto – a
burn or kiss.
In high school, you practiced guitar in your friend’s basement and wrote love songs. Filled up the margins of each science and math notebook with your devotion. You said, In another life, I would’ve done it. Been a poet or songwriter. But in this one, I get to be an archaeologist and that’s pretty great, too.
I told you, I want to lead many lives.
The God of the Sun asked, Why
would you want me to own any part
We sat on barrels in the kitchen tent after everyone else had curled up in their sleeping bags, drank tea—the caffeinated kind so we joke we’ll ‘just have to’ stay up all night. Finally, you asked,tell me something about you.
I’ve forgotten already what I replied.
Just be here with me then, in this
meadow. Before the day is gone.
Later, lying in my sleeping bag, clutching my hand to my chest, a bird that might fly away. I am not of this body or flesh. My lips bleed red of distant fireweed, my eyes silt-gray of glacial streams. My heart is not my heart.
The God of the Sun said yes, he
would stay a while longer, but
already his eyes were flitting ahead,
charting the curvature of the earth,
the edge of the continent from which
he would take flight.
We sat in the kitchen tent as bugs flitted in and out of the opening. I scooted the barrel I sat on closer to yours. You: I’m just now getting tired. My body ached at being confined in so small a form – my skin too tight, my ribs crushing against my heart and lungs.
I would like to be the kind of person who can live for the moment before, the nervous anticipation. I am a moth sputtering against the glass of a lamp – I yearn to be burned up.
I let my head fall against your shoulder, then turned to meet your eyes. Neither of us spoke for a while. We hovered in the moment as the Sun hovered in the sky, one endless day, one endless moment where I am about to kiss you, where I have not been, cannot be hurt, because an ocean hangs in the space between our lips, and you with your secrets, your stories with pieces bitten out, are a separate landmass.
The God of the Sun
burned a hole in the meadow
as he took back to the skies and the
girl stood alone in the charred grass and
thought of all the days of her life before she met
him, when the light was just the light, days end just
another coming of night. How ever could she fall asleep
without tasting the morning on her breath? Better even that
her love should be a son of Midas, that he should turn her skin to
gold for greedy gallery owners and museum curators to fight over.
Better that he be Icarus, and land in her arms before he plunged
into the sea. Better that he be anything but the high and distant
Sun. But if the God of the Sun had kissed the maiden in the
meadow, it would have tasted like this: honey he stirred
into tea, his teeth that tugged her lower lip, his hand
that danced shapes onto her back. Then how he
shook slightly against her and she felt it like it
was in her own body. Like the Sun was a
burden she might share, a weight
she might too hold, take up.
Emma Eisler (she/her) is a junior English major at Cornell University with a concentration in poetry. She is Editor in Chief of the university magazine, Kitsch, as well as a columnist for the independent newspaper, the Cornell Sun and a recipient of the Cornell University Dorothy Sugarman Undergraduate Prize for poetry.
EMMA EISLER’s chapbook, Mother Nature’s Son, was a finalist in our Fall 2020 Digging Press Chapbook Competition.
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