Falling asleep, she saw the lid of the box
Beside her glittering, the unknown dowry
She was forbidden to look at,
But under eyelids heavier than moonlight
She carried that glitter down into a dream.
She was in the dark, in a chamber, touching its walls
And floor and ceiling with pieces of herself,
Some glinting like fireflies, some burnt black and cold,
Odd flapping and squirming pieces, feathered
And furred, bone-pointed, clawed, all wanting out.
But there was nowhere to go, no door, no window,
She was trapped as if in a box. Then with a groan
Of hinges, the ceiling opened,
And there in the widening strip of light, grown huge
And terrible, her own face looked in.
And all those parts of her in a swarm went flying
Upward and outward: maggots with bat wings,
Pink termites, scarlet bees, green wasps in a fury
And moths on fire like twistings of paper
And through them a death-squeaking of black mice.
She became that other holding the lid upraised
And wishing what she'd scattered would return
And shut itself in again to be forgotten,
That the god who'd cursed her with this gift
Would relent and rescue her from a curious heart.
She woke, she stretched, she forgot, she yawned, she saw
Only a box at her bedside, shimmering
With promises she could keep or break by lifting
A single clasp and using her naked eyes.
She rose, still in a dream, and opened it.
--David Wagoner, First Light
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