with what you thought was certainty. One day, it just happens—the tether loosens. The habit of always looking back gives way to a resignation. The poets still sing of great, unquenchable loves; of a city lost in mist that the fragrance of a single peach on a table could evoke. The boat cannot find its way back to that current. Another love beckons, another love holds you here.
It will rain and rain again and we will think there'll be no end to it it will turn cold and night will fall faster than the light can catch it or it will cycle between heat and uncertainty before climbing walls of fog it will spare no branch no seedling nor hollowed tuft in the field it will take with a mouth hungry for every plot brillianced with green it will leave us messages in stone written by blue- tongued skinks
Where are you if we can't find proof of your existence as civil servant? Not even an index card in a filing cabinet, not one yellowing record with nearly unreadable letters stuck in a box, somewhere in the basement of the City Hall? The clerks say it's because it was the time before digitization, before computerized filing; when sheaves of paper were tied with twine or organized with rubber bands: A-E under a moldy pipe, F-J by the water heater. All the men who knew you or were your friends are dead now too—what is death if not the last repository, safety deposit box without a key, without a combination; held inside some depthless vault we can't imagine?
"...Beautiful, unanswerable questions." ~ Carl Sandburg Days hiccup, alternate: you wake one day and maybe you think it's such an unexceptional day. Or maybe it feels indeterminate, like standing in the musty lobby of a nondescript motel, no longer recalling how you got there. Maybe it's like the back corridor of the Planned Parenthood clinic, walls painted chalky gray, when in your late forties, you held a test stick in your fingers and watched a second evap line turn dark pink in the window. A group of pious protesters stood in tight semicircle near the exit, singing hymns, amazing something; chanting and chanting their holier-than-thou. Did they never feel their bodies could play tricks on them—pull out from a hidden shelf a seed that thought it might flower like campion dug out of the permafrost? But before you could make your return appointment, while in the shower a glistening knob of tissue unfastened, slid out. Loosened whorl, small bud you palmed from wet tile: how the body recognized the feel of a suddenly empty room.
Sometimes a pearly brightness outlines each dusty blade of the blinds, deep in the night, as though from a floodlight. Of course it's only the moon, which cycles again from its first slivered form to this fullness—even if you remain asleep, it sieves through darkness the way a feeling like happiness might touch everything in its way; the way a fever runs its course and finally breaks.
Under an arch of trees, a mild wind passes and you recall an earlier time when you looked up and there seemed an opening in the hills, the smallest cleft where the light came and went. Holding it in your gaze, you remember too when once you climbed to the summit— an easy hike then, not many house plots yet, or fences beyond which laundry dripped in the sun. A lone cow grazing, a flock of goats. Wild patches of marapait; tender vines of sayote and tartaraok. Mechanics tinkered with dented vehicles, their heads wreathed in cigarette smoke. And at the top: ruined ramparts that only the ghosts of priests or prisoners walked at sundown. Isn't this how every past love fades into a flower or a leaf? Wind or no wind, so many blossoms at the base of the tree.
How do we know winter
is coming? Dark wants
to sift its powder over light,
but the arms of trees widen
spaces for sky. I keep
one cicada shell to think
of how the woods
trilled with a single
as in not only the aftermath but some aftertime. Meaning what we survive, or what survives us. The mail, finally delivered beyond the end of the world. Little squares of sticky-backed neon paper, untouched. The electric car whispering your driving score. The as yet unimagined successors of the manila envelope, the horse-drawn carriage, the pneumatic tube, end-to-end encrypted email. Are we there yet, asks the speaking donkey. Evidently not, if animation extends only to a 3D screen. Meaning after the statues have come down there are still dark, haunted histories. Meaning we are in the throat of a moment that hasn't completely spat us out yet. We're working as hard as we can. We can be as rust-colored fishbones, as calcium stones, a mouthful of marbles refusing to translate their brilliance.
Nothing lasts, nothing keeps its original form. In stories, a room full of wheat will make you want to think of gold filaments, wires curved cunningly into miniature trellises. A body covered with leaves could have been a windfall that floated out of the open sky. Doesn't it look familiar ? Across a quilt there are thousands of stitches. How can each one of them, that tiny, anchor the weight of so many nights of sleep?
A late summer of relentless sun: yet hard green figs hide in the foliage. Some leaves are yellow and falling; perhaps they think their season's done. The cheeks of some fruit never flushed as though from tinctures of mandrake, never turned purple as nightshade. No chalky crimson where the heart might be, just a mossy silence sifting from farther away or overhead.