She wakes from the dream of
sun, eager, blind, devouring true heat,
words to him intent, bristling still,
tiny endings of sight.
His poetry for her, she had said,
would scour down
to carpet trails to rooms,
stairwell to hall, to cool basement
scenting furnace hum,
the twitch of winter glass,
clock in room,
expressionless mouth of
She does not see a man
she stripped down to
a kind of sun, or dark star
crossing dawn into
the borders of her skin.
As we travel in its direction
we are carried for awhile
by stray things
we collect of each other.
This is how I’m reminded
about the togetherness of lost things,
that they resemble each other,
pulling being an expression of reach,
sleep an anchor for darkness
lowered into the sky
at the bottom of a well.
I don’t know if either of us gets there,
the one the Mennonites dug,
but maybe we are simple pail
tugged out from the earth,
each grasp we make
brimming in the other.
This map flows river after river,
creeks popping through them, like bent nails.
I read its mind on Evelyn again,
wind stealing it from your hand,
stuffing it down its pocket of rapids.
I’d go to those rivers once.
It didn’t matter,
you’d never stop finding me.
So, I believed that what the tongues
and grooves of water had to say
that you loved a wilderness
more than I could ever.
You’d just come to me,
you, your invisible map,
only I could see,
so that nothing, I thought,
would steal it.
Here in Pikangikum territory in late August
your accent is the summer of pinaceae,
azimuth, canvasback, azure
and the lines of you scrawl on my back
and the hair of you spreads roots over blunt Obsidian,
and wrinkles smooth Anishinaabe lakes
northwest of Pikangikum territory in late August
as westerlies fill the cheeks of stratocumulus,
heavy-set, blueset as slate. But, this is not love, you state.
We must wait until our bones are stepping stones
set in waterskins, and scars and bruises
are rubbed in arrowheads of paint ending on a brush;
in other words, an eyelash that winces turpentine sting,
weeps on the shoulders of words
their bittersweet scent of juniper
giving up to us all we mean by that.
I pass your house
as morning fades in long reeds of smoke,
as transcendence returns steadily to its old fate.
I’ve hidden things we’ve misplaced there.
Returning now to them,
would the lips remember their directions
under the scent of bread in your hair,
or of those first chickadees
who seemed to believe, more or less,
in the beatitude of their seeds,
like blackberries in hedges of snow
outside a backyard window?
Or, of you and I, for that matter,
would they sense the instinct of grace,
which remembers all and forgets,
and like all imperfect things is
a simple air that, first, senses us?
This evening I walked you to your car,
watched the headlights go,
the engine setting into the scent of night.
I switched the light off over the front steps
and in that moment,
while the snow still glowed,
like some new planet,
I glimpsed the footsteps of this shadow,
forever returning, endlessly leaving,
as if it knew better to trust the light.
There is less time to write now.
I leave the office at 5,
run for an hour.
I drive to your house with flowers,
kiss you. Kiss you, finally, and leave.
I think about calling on the drive home.
I make dinner for myself, wash,
set the alarm. I look for the matches
to light the candles so that I can sleep
and which I will set on my desk
where I spent all those nights writing.
I tell myself, nothing is wasted.
Every word requires a second language.
For example, there is no word for beauty,
though rivers are stories
about love, the plot of rafts,
I saw, glued-together by summer’d
under a winter’d disfigured bruise.
Of this language,
rivers are clear about this:
only bodies swim.
Only a body holds a promised land.
Only bodies drown, holy
as the river reiterating the river,
the blood, succinct, inside the wine.
Words between us are like birds
that have not returned.
We drive by the ice ponds
on the undeveloped land.
You take a left at the lights.
They circle, they cannot land.
Tonight, I fell through the ice.
It’s easy to break into light,
splinter into astonishment.
It’s harder as we walk, though,
along Two River Creek,
as you point out
you skated last week
for the first time in your life.
That you fell, and
he pulled you back.
What is there you’re showing me
between the shadows
of our eyes, adjusting mine
to your darkness, to the clouds
chattering under my grey beard
We know what loss is –
the excavation of love. But, is this what
I am meant to find when we step
next to each other in silence,
the wet pearls on your face,
for which I once dove,
giving themselves up as rocky stars
brightly fallen from the Black Sea of
your underground river?