There’s always a reason for elsewhere, a chill, a chance to leave creases. As the
sunlight at home became my only memory, I followed vectors over the country’s
thick body. Two months at the narrow end, I lived with my dust in its traveled
colors in the bones and rooms of a clapboard house stained a sad unpredictable
red. The house had been floated over the harbor, and sat, solemn, one street from
the mouth that never ceases. In the mornings, as I recall, the flocked listless light
cast a hull on the back wall, and by night maple leaves hovered like fingers in
darkness. Each road agreed with the next, taking me forward. The hours in each
cycle rose and receded. I was bystander, hidden. Water sprawled its salt-broth
against dike and docks. The ocean undressed to an exquisite blue gown. Day
after day: empire, departure, routine. The hurling Atlantic throwing its gesture on
sand. Autumn layered and pressed against me. Even now, years later and back
within the desert, the undulation has not diminished.
Here is the City and it is Instantly Apparent
One week back what I lost again comes
to attention. Such is the delusion of leaving.
A bus clambers from the valley where men flaunt
their angles and anguish on alcoves.
Where bay windows bend
from decisions, and the men now lean back
to dangle their vowels. Where the margins
are jackets and razors—places of drag-
around dark, and train rails continuously
turning closer. The city keeps bending
to disgorge black leather on plump bodies
burnt by tattoos. Day after day,
the floured fog until the sky thaws
its stubborn existence.
Back then I held keys to rooms
between cornices and the salt-smell of clarity.
I wrote notes of struggle that I gathered
under my bed. I remember believing
what I would never need
and this meant unsolving the world
of its broken prayers; and then it meant leaving
the city with its pitch and its plates, going past
roads. It meant a husband
and our liabilities. Belonging to other narratives:
rabbit, owl, insect, wolf. Meant learning
the pulse of rain's small batons
and the good gown of darkness.
Before such plenty, there was also plenty.
The First to Refuse
A dubious week, and what remains
is more empty
of understanding. We were in the careful
room, exhausting the pretty.
He thanked me
for not kissing him. Less
to carry back. His speech
was in tune and somewhat
restrictive. We stood
in the house without flowers without scratch-
coat with only sky. With somewhere
his wife and children,
— but here, with only the light
cloth of summer. We stood
in our bodies,
awkward. There were analogous doors
that went away
from me. No one knocked.
This was after he paid
for the dinner. We’d sat on the porch,
four of us, with improbable voices.
His sister-in-law smoked
as I shivered,. She loaned me
her cardigan. Later,
he walked me through
all the rocky
places to my small room.
I count my defiance in the unknown
spice of his sternum.
By myself, when he left, I imitated
my no to hear how it sounded.
I chose the pace of it, then continued
to wait in the thin reach
of darkness. The clock was enough—
and those numbers. He realized
part of the past,
and left through the elm leaves.
At the curtain I heard the night
chanting. For once,
I was guilty
of nothing, not even
the moon’s sprawling.