Is it a problem I cannot find the garden
In a rusty watering can, or
Is this misplaced clarity?
This winter surprises; it was meant
to be a world covered, but it
Long reeds of smoke lift, entering the sky.
Transcendence returns steadily to its old fate.
Morning fades as I drive along the Hanlon.
Somewhere in her house, I’ve misplaced things.
I shouldn’t go back for them,
I’d forget what skimmed my lips,
or the light scent of bread in her hair
that followed. And those first chickadees
who seemed to believe, more or less,
in the seeds hiding among themselves
in edges of snow — of those, what would I forget?
The imperfection of instinct, the bafflement of love.
The morning air, this grace I’ve come into?
The soap you said reminded you of home.
I wash my body with it because it is haunted.
I don’t sense death, only a thing unlived.
Downstairs, outside, shadows are trapped
in the garden between the azaleas and the brick wall.
Winter makes everything a weed.
We were together when you were gone.
We drove to the fair in the city that day.
We held hands while their mirrors disfigured us.
For a split-second we never left.
The sun, that morning, on the snow,
was at home.
Let us pretend it is not becoming dark so quickly.
The best days are the first, the unrevealed countries,
rebuked in cold and flare in the blue underground of our knuckles.
We grin fiercely in our bewilderment,
figures tramping the crimped borders of a white bay,
stripped to the outskirts of our bareness.
This place brings me to say all there is,
and you listen, the outstretched land patient as you,
my reckoning of young boughs and the faith
that is released to the slackening gravity of your body,
you, liquid animal that roots up out of the earth to
devour the light of air from the faltering season so that
no wonder you relish the tongues of water encountering the ice
in the beaver pond, you say, and we walk like this,
hopeful we will pause inside its resolve, cheerful
children who skim uncertainly into the quartz lake,
we are unsure of the extent that is required to be steadfast,
and I stare at your shoulders, your funny boots. Your clumsy steps.
That I long to imitate with my own. What is it I need to hear from you?
I wonder, falling through the ice, would your breath hold
until you, staunch and seemingly barren in your isolation,
were taken for a deer in the distance, and farther,
a raven in the tamarack, or in the end
the remittance of snow on the tip of the tongue
until I was, as they say, all but gone?
Then, would the lungs fill in lament, reminding
the air the warmth of your rhapsody.
I sit behind the dash
because the sun shines in,
but wait for myself
to open the door, and leave.
It’s hard to know how cold
the sun will get inside.