Linda Casebeer

Before her lover gave her oranges stuffed
with stolen diamonds innocent Erèndira
had accidentally set fire to the uninsured house
of her grandmother leaving it in ashes;
her heartless grandmother would offer Erèndira
as a prostitute insuring magic realism paid
the claim as they roamed the desert in tents
under the stars until stars became diamonds.

Before imagination spawned widespread
derivatives and arbitrage that sound more
elegant than the exploitation itself only
Lloyd’s of London worldwide issued policies
accepting the risk for Betty Grable’s legs,
Zorina’s toes, Jimmy Durante’s nose,
Jose Greco’s trousers from splitting,
Abbott and Costello from disagreeing.

Before a medical school accepted the gift
of my insurance underwriting father’s body
my mother was promised his ashes at the end
but after his body was placed naked
on a metal table to teach anatomy students
his remains were buried somewhere else
leaving only the stars to teach him arbitrage
and derivatives insured without reserve.

Before our county owed four billion dollars
for sewer repairs the debt was auctioned
and swapped fifteen times until it ballooned
to an unimaginable size through promises
as empty as my father’s grave and all
that we cannot be insured against including
the accidental clots in my lover’s lungs
derivative of an ordinary surgery.

Before my lover and I were wed we watched
Erèndira’s innocence erode in diamonds
on the silver screen; afterwards I wrote
a simple poem, and my lover recorded
a line overflowing with oranges on the first
page of Erèndira’s story, a slim volume
with lavender cover sealing our forever
romance since who could resist such a gift.