The Alchemist Works Feverishly Upon the Death of his Love.

by Lyn C. A. Gardner


Steam clouds the air.
By feel, not sight,
I plunge my hand
Through the right ventricle
To pull the weeds from
Within the crimson beating thing
You left behind for me to tend,
Flesh dangerous with your fuming hatreds,
Your wild, choking love.

A simple recipe:
Draw out the venom
Through the retort;
Boil out the bitterness,
And decant it as condensed poison;
Then use the flame to
Cleanse my corroded hand,
To shake my soul loose
From your grip,
Leaving nothing but you,
Pure rendered essence
To bottle and store.

But my hand has been corrupted by the touch:
It gestures on its own, reformed as silver,
Speaking beyond my jaw-clenched silence,
A moonlike sliver fluttering like a sparrow.
I must steep the softness from
These sculpted, downy feathers
In seething water until
The water boils red, bubbles in fury:
But the traitorous flesh will not melt.
My blemish, rendered now
As quicksilver, steel,
Your memories imprinted in sinew
And realized bone.

Time to start again.
Patience is the steel of science.
I reach inside and pluck my heart free,
Drop the lump of flesh into the vat
Where yours so lately burned,
Pour in the green venom that I distilled,
Most pungent essence of you.

Corrode clean, my heart!
I must transmute this fragile beating thing
To gold, or at least gold-ruby glass--
Scour free my impurities,
All that corruptible flesh,
Seething emotions,
Those faults that rot from within--
Those seeds of death that bloom with age,
All that kept you from me in life.

Apprentices grind me to sand, burn me to ash,
And feed me to the fire,
Then set me on the shelf beside your vial,
Both of us refined to withstand ages--
Rare glass worked fine with flame,
All our faults purified, refined,
Our souls now free to flow
Into smooth, clear forms whose
Beauty within is visible without:
Transparent thought, hollowed clean
Of hearts.  Perfection.
Now we can safely observe millennia
In calm and crystal silence.