The woman’s collarbone is a jutting shelf, and tufts
of hair cloud above wide cheekbones, once shifting planes
now static, slack in sleep, motionless hands tipped with polished nails.
This formidable, Victorian mannequin in a high-collared gown
looks nothing like my aunt, as those stop-and-go breaths
float her away, till she’s no one and nowhere

like the way on a long flight, you’re in the air, nowhere,
while outside the windows, stringy clouds tuft,
clump, curl, and float in puffs like breaths
further and further apart. Outside that airplane
that just floats there in space, the earth is far gone,
no destination in sight, nose scrapes the sky like a nail

pointed toward nothingness as you drink your water, nails
slitting a bag of nuts, wait to descend from this peculiar nowhere,
touch ground, somewhere again. I once arrived in Paris, no luggage, jacket, nightgown.
My ship had sailed. A French driver pulled up, tattooed, muscled, tough,
whipped his car down streets, through gently rolling hills, across plains,
left me at a café beside the river in a town that held its breath

or maybe my ears were ringing. Rain bent flowers like passengers whose breath
evens, heads drooping and jerking, yanking up, sagging again. Rain like nails
battering the ground gathered in the gutters, darkened empty, plain
brick streets. Glasses clattered, foreign words floated, I didn’t know where
I was, perhaps a jet-lagged dream? Trails and tufts
of meaning, uncaught, drifted though the daze, there, then gone

and soon, after days on trains, ships, motorboats, bikes, gondolas,
buses, cars, on heaving floors and tossing decks, in the steaming breaths
of movement, my body forgot it was no longer in motion, days tufting
by, bed swaying and rocking as if riding a current, faint echoes like nails
crashing against metal, clattering over rails, until I dreamed that I was nowhere
and everywhere at once, far from the great plains

of my childhood, where it all comes to a stop in the wide planes
of an aunt’s suddenly angular face, of a full-sleeved pink gown
that overpowers her frailty. Like a jet-lagged passenger, she is nowhere,
in no time, falling through fragments of sound and clouds of breath,
my uncle’s hand enveloping hers. She is somehow inaccurate, shell pink on ancient nails,
expressions and gestures missing, a foreigner who evokes only tufts

of memory, familiarity, and we’re on a plane bulleting through tufts
of clouds, breaking off like fingernails, cradling us like a too-large gown,
in motion and still at once, everywhere and nowhere, breathing halting breaths.