This, of course, is what money won’t buy, this
hip-to-hip, two-centered circle, drift
and drift – you in front, provocative
as a pomegranate, me in front, hearing
echoes – your footsteps filling mine
the way perhaps snow fills the tracks
of caribou, keeping the wolves off. We’re
birds of a feather. Our minds veer
and arc on the same air. It’s open season here
on sun and wind, and I’m wearing my license
conspicuous and on my sleeve.
We scuff and boot the leaves like six-year-olds,
grin like raccoons. These are years, we say,
shed like snake skins – doomed, irrelevant,
beautiful. Miles or years, we’ve walked
forever here, you and I, putting on
or shedding each other like light or leaves,
the traffic hushed and distant. We feel exotic
as the names of these lakeshore towns we walk in,
the water quiet, leaves falling, the light quixotic.
It’s all new. You’re new – taut and muscular
as a spring colt claiming his first field.
I’m new – grinning ear to ear, hearing windmills.
Death is new here, too, and moves like water underfoot.
We drift in October light through the rose garden,
all the roses gone. Clothed in purple and black,
you’re naked. Naked, raspberries and cream,
you’re clothed. It’s magic. For you I invent the sun,
feel tragic, drive it to your doorstep
in a long yellow cab, stand there, hat in hand,
like some foolish figure in a thirties’ flick—
your hair darker than any back row seat.
You talk, stoop, pick weeds, say the sky
has breadth. I say birds have scissored
it to death, but I’m dazzled anyway.
It’s late fall. The birds look hungrier.
You say you’re leaving your husband anyhow—
for all his good, for all my bad.
Standing against a tree, your hood up,
your half-moon smile floating somewhere
below the hairline, I imagine you grew there
whole, yesterday perhaps, dew-like, and I
kiss you, feel shy, boyish – hungry
the way the old birds must
who know they won’t get south.
It’s mid-winter and the crunching underfoot
sounds rare, precious. You’re
purple and yellow. I’m fatigue L.L. Bean
gray-green. The six years between us though
is hardly May and January,
and I’m dazzled by purple and yellow
and can outrun you anyway.
You admit now, though, cold hurts,
for all your tough talk. I should admit
what…for all my tough talk? – that my wife
writes, calls, cries, argues, accuses? Indeed
this crunching underfoot is precious – glass
or ice. It’s January. It will soon
be May. Our rooms are white and beautiful
and bloom with plants.
Your mother calls, sends chocolates, prays—
makes me feel like the anti-Christ. And
it’s true enough I come from a land
of sand and stone, and never put much trust
in trees or green. (In my mind’s eye
I always return
to the same rock ridge, almost abstract now
in the blind revision of its lie—
a dark saw-blade raised against blue sky.)
But here, your walk is so much like the sun
or prayer, I must stoop
and touch the place you’ve stepped, knowing
come spring, something will grow there.
Today bright sun makes blue sky and white birds
pure blue, pure white, barely visible
as we squint and almost stumble
in the pure light.
Yet we feel entitled here
as tourists, say, who’ve paid their fare,
though never dreaming it would look like this.
Beguiled by the low cant of foreign tongues,
we’re half afraid some blunt truth in our own talk
will startle us back to earth, bring the dream
crashing like glass about our ears.
when the wind blows and the domed sky
when small nests of clustered stones
nosing into wind on the iced canal
rise and become birds.
This is the season
of the long white distance,
is much like blindness, blindness like pure sight.
You say, You are the magician, I but the source.
Who could top that? Who, mid-stride,
could help but feel the joy
of fear stutter his heart
like cloud-shadow. We have walked
a long time. It is growing dark. I wish
to take you in my arms. I wish to say
to the child we will one day make,
You grew here, among sun and wind
in the gathering dark. I wish to say,
Your mother was taken
among stones, among these circling
and calling birds,
and they were not far wrong.
We have, I think, no word for this thin-aired
quiet full of light, through which we drift
like new ghosts
risen to Elysian Fields – the still, green lakes
somnolent as deep thought. It’s the day
before Easter. The fishermen
standing on the firm bank
wave their fly-rods like bright wands
toward dark depths
where once new life must have climbed, sloth-like
into a dream of sunlight,
and where now loud children and willing dogs
are all smiles, wagging tongues,
sinew and muscle.
Today we talk less, think more.
Today we smile at all that is sensuous