The Mercury Fountain

By Zeynep Uzumcu

October Sunday I disturb the surface of the canal

with a rented green canoe, 

to watch the heron at the water’s edge.

 

He watches, too. As if occupying 

this small tide is his coveted work –

the disintegrating shoal, and nothing else, his station. 

 

Months later the gulls pace a half-iced lake,

marshaling left and right, on assignment.

All in their places,

 

how the April crocus hears his name being spoken,

and summer brings the sudden weight of mulberries, 

appearing by appointment on a bough.

 

And how there is no deciding where to go on a Sunday.

Most things have claimed their place and time:

October with its cold and graceful taper.

 

This is what I came to watch, paddling at my discretion,

yelping to avoid shallows,

the secret morass and the errant branch.

 

And there is no errant branch.

When I free the hull finally,

imagine I don’t notice as mercury rivers split from my paddle,

 

and my breath is the exhaust of a Chevrolet.

I return the canoe, and the scene continues unreeling, 

unwatched and inevitable as I drive away.

 

In the hour before sleep, I remember the Mercury Fountain, 

spilling a music I cannot hear. It might be the mind,

how it generates false sustenance, 

 

flattering itself as participant in the good engine.

With its red makeshift sun about to dip 

a taste of the horizon,

 

it, too, wants a heron at its edge,

but the desire looks suspicious.

The materials are wrong. 

 

Or imagine it so familiar,

a birdbath, knowable and trite.

It lures this desert lip:

 

those who approach

see their reflection in the forbidding surface,

and that is all.

* Alexander Calder’s Mercury Fountain is housed in an airtight room in Barcelona’s Fundació Juan Miró. Visitors observe the fountain from behind a window, as even the fumes from the mercury are toxic.

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