There’s a forest that stands at the exact center of sorrow. Regrets find no shelter there. The trees, when they sway, sway like the manes of horses when a storm’s not far. There’s no reason to stay there, nothing worth going to see, but if you want to you can pass through the forest in the better part of a long day. Who would want to, though?
To have entered the forest changes nothing about sorrow. It’s a forest. Not oblivion. Not erasure. Some have entered it in the name of distraction, if only briefly, from the sorrow within which the forest thrives to no apparent purpose—fools, dreamers, the desperate from whom it’s best, if at all possible, to look calmly away, the trees of the forest at the center of sorrow— the exact center—all but say, or that’s what it sounds like on windier nights,
tonight, for example. At the forest’s exact center, almost impossible to find, but I have been there myself, there’s a makeshift grave, more than likely overgrown by now with weeds, moss, the usual. With defeat, desire, the usual. Wingless ambition, frangible hope, misunderstanding, i.e., mistake, another form of weakness, i.e., the usual. That the forest itself contains no apology doesn’t mean you’re not hurt. Or I’m not sorry. Or I didn’t hurt you.
To lift, without ever asking what animal exactly it once belonged to, the socketed helmet that what’s left of the skull equals up to your face, to hold it there, mask-like, to look through it until looking through means looking back, back through the skull, into the self that is partly the animal you’ve always wanted to be, that—depending—fear has prevented or rescued you from becoming, to know utterly what you’ll never be, to understand in doing so what you are, and say no to it, not to who you are, to say no to despair.
There’s a nudging that a living horse will sometimes extend towards a dead one, a nudging not so much against death – what is knowable to a horse, but not understandable – but against that space right before loneliness settles in for real that horses do, it seems, understand. And so that was the first day. The night was what night always is: a black starfish, black according to some for holiness, to others for the limbs themselves, unfurling as if from long sleep or a late stiffness, or as when a quiet thing, and very still, starts moving, moves, one stiff black limb at a time.
If, when studying road atlases while taking, as you call it, your morning dump, you shout down to me names like Miami City, Franconia, Cancún, as places for you to take me to from here, can I help it if
all I can think is things that are stupid, like he loves me he loves me not? I don’t think so. No more than, some mornings, waking to your hands around me, and remembering these are the fingers, the hands I’ve
over and over given myself to, I can stop myself from wondering does that mean they’re the same I’ll grow old with. Yesterday, in the café I keep meaning to show you, I thought this is how I’ll die maybe, alone,
somewhere too far away from wherever you are then, my heart racing from espresso and too many cigarettes, my head down on the table’s cool marble, and the ceiling fan turning slowly above me, like fortune, the
part of fortune that’s half-wished- for only—it did not seem the worst way. I thought this is another of those things I’m always forgetting to tell you, or don’t choose to tell you, or I tell you but only
in the same way, each morning, I keep myself from saying too loud I love you until the moment you flush the toilet, then I say it, when the rumble of water running down through the house could mean anything: flood,
your feet descending the stairs any moment; any moment the whole world, all I want of the world, coming down.
The road down from everything even you had hardly dared to hope for has its lonely stretches, yes, but it’s hard to feel alone entirely: there’s a river that runs beside it the whole way down, and there’s an over-song that keeps the river company: I’m leaves, you're the wind…
I used to think the song had to do with the leaves’ confusion, the wind letting up, their mistaking this for something like courtesy on the wind’s part, or even forgiveness. But leaves don’t get confused. Silly, to think it. And what can leaves know of courtesy, let alone forgiveness? What’s forgiveness?
Wake up, for the falconer has lost his falcon. He has heard that falcons are like memory, they come back. But not all memories do, not all memories should. If anyone knows this, it’s the falconer. How long ago that was…Yet
all the varieties of good fortune he’s come upon, as a hand comes idly upon an orchard’s windfalls, how different he’s become since— none of it matters, when the falconer steps back into memory as into a vast cathedral, which is to say, when he remembers.
How cool it is, inside the cathedral. And at first, how dark. Soon, though, he can see a chapel set aside for prayers specifically to the virgin whose story he’s always resisted. He sees a corner where people have lit candles, sometimes for another’s suffering, sometimes for their own. He sees the altar with the falcon sitting on top of it.
The weight of grief over what’s lost, versus the shadow of what’s lost—forever struggling to return, and failing: who can say which is better? The falconer’s eye meets the falcon’s eye:
I have a story, the falcon says, seems to, the wings lifting, the feathers rippling with a story’s parts—I have a story; I can’t wait to tell you.
As through marble or the lining of certain fish split open and scooped clean, this is the blue vein that rides, where the flesh is even whiter than the rest of her, the splayed thighs mother forgets, busy struggling for command over bones: her own, those of the chaise longue, all equally uncooperative, and there’s the wind, too. This is her hair, gone from white to blue in the air.
This is the black, shot with blue, of my dark daddy’s knuckles, that do not change, ever. Which is to say they are no more pale in anger than at rest, or when, as I imagine them now, they follow the same two fingers he has always used to make the rim of every empty blue glass in the house sing. Always, the same blue-to-black sorrow no black surface can entirely hide.
Under the night, somewhere between the white that is nothing so much as blue, and the black that is, finally; nothing, I am the man neither of you remembers. Shielding, in the half-dark, the blue eyes I sometimes forget I don’t have. Pulling my own stoop- shouldered kind of blues across paper. Apparently misinformed about the rumored stuff of dreams: everywhere I inquired, I was told look for blue.
Like any spell for bringing everyone you’ve ever loved back, said the wind last night. What is it, about nighttime and fragment seeming made for each other? It’s morning, now. The wind is just
wind again, saying nothing, of course. The bomb cyclone, as it’s called when there’s a more powerful than usual mashup of warm and cold air leading to “hurricane-force wind events” hasn’t
happened yet, but there’s an ominous bending and failing to rise up that the bamboo keeps doing, that makes me think Sure, anything could happen, but when isn’t that true? So many poems
waiting for flight, grounded variously until better weather or until the latest glitch (in vision, technique, both) that caused the latest disaster gets worked out, the way it can seem impossible, during
the intricate steps of dressage, that the horses ever do things like trot into a barn or casually walk to any field’s other end—yet they do, eventually. What’s difficult resolves. Disaster is almost
never tragedy. The snowbells (that appeared overnight? or am I just now noticing them?) are only snowbells if I call them that. I could as easily call them Don’t tell me the worst I’d expected
is true, or Lo, the queen’s bodice, borne unobtrusively aloft, or— or I can say it’s spring again, with its first shy flowers, meaning color, not bearing. Not mood. Hopkins thought flowers expressed
devotion the only way they could: they turn toward the sun. From humans, he suggested, God expects more—no, is owed more, because we have more to give. Leaving out God and science,
I suppose I get that, a version maybe of what Campion says: All do not all things well—as in we do what we can. I had a house near the sea, once, for example; now I live where there’s no sea
at all, in a house with a yard filled with trees, among them this barren pear tree from which I long ago hung a set of wind chimes designed to sound like a cross between a ship’s bells and the sort of
music tapped out by the rigging’s cable blocks as they hit their masts unobstructed, sails down in a storm. If I close my eyes, it really can seem I’m home again—the sea not far, the wind in the leaves
standing in for the waves getting rougher than forecast, Rough the way once you liked it, I can almost hear the waves choiring back at me like an accusation of what I don’t deny, nor am I
shamed of it, bring the boats to shore, friends, lay me down on the shore. This far into the country, though, a boat’s pretty much useless. Hence the pioneers with their teetered wagons that they
called prairie schooners out of sheer nostalgia, already missing the sea. Is that nostalgia? Or is it more like what Xenophanes says, how if cows could draw, the gods in their pictures would have
horns, the gods of birds would have feathers everywhere, each would brandish, for stateliness, two wings for mastering a wind strong enough to bring the stars down, as we used to say, before
to touch meant collision, back when sex was what mattered most; seemed to. Now precision does—specifically, that precision with which love, felt honestly, deploys itself as if it hadn’t
planned to. So that it feels like chance: chance as a boy with a sash marked Fate across the promise that his chest is, or soon will be, give it time, there’s time, still. The truth is, there aren’t
that many people I can say I have loved, not in any way that matters or stands memorable, really, and of those few I’m not so certain I’d bring any of them back. At best, they wouldn’t find me
anything close to who I was when I loved them, which is to say I’d disappoint them all over again, just differently, so there’d at least be that. What is happening, they used to ask me. Could you
rephrase the question, I’d sort of mumble back, in a way it was like dancing, when both people know how to dance, what I mean is there was grace to it, a real grace, despite the mumbling,
which is maybe why it took so long, for one of us to stop, if here to stop doesn’t have to mean letting go; more like: I am grateful for you, let neither of us wish for or do the other harm. Let sex—
for, though I meant what I said about it not mattering most now, it still matters—let sex be governed by that same restraint from any harm unasked for. It almost sounds like prayer sometimes,
he said, describing light on water. He said it like the sort of thing, after sex, one simply says. Entering the body, pulling gently back out of it—is that so little for a life to have come to? That, and
the more than a few names long since scattered like those leaves across which the Sibyl’s prophecies are written clearly enough, if only the leaves would stop moving, if I could read and know,
for once, what? what’s left for me, in terms of time, directions of fortune, who I am? Who am I, the hero says to himself, looking past his reflection on the lake’s surface down to where
the darker greens give way at last to darkness. A light wind stirs the surface. The reflection trembles without breaking apart. As if this late in the long apprenticeship, “When I Change My Life”
had stopped being a song anymore worth singing. I believe and refuse to believe that, equally. Speak to me; speak into me, the wind said, when I woke this morning, Let’s see what happens.
What injures the hive injures the bee, says Marcus Aurelius. I say not wanting to hurt another, this late, should maybe more than count, still, as a form of love. Be wild. Bewilder. Not that they hadn’t, of course, known unkindnesses, and been themselves unkind. When the willow’s leaves, back again, unfold all along their branches, the branches routinely in turn brushing then lifting
away from the pond’s face, it’s too late. Last night I doubted as I’ve not doubted myself in years: knowing a thing seemed worthless next to knowing the difference between many things, the fox from the hounds, persuasion from the trust required to fall asleep beside a stranger; who I am, and how I treated you, and how you feel. So that it almost seemed they’d either forgotten or agreed without
saying so to pretend they had. Did you know there’s an actual plant called honesty, for its seedpods, how you can see straight through? Though they’d been told the entire grove would die eventually, they refused to believe it. The face in sleep, like a wish wasted. To the wings at first a slight unsteadiness; then barely any. What if forgetting’s not like that—instead, stampeding, panicked, just a ghost choir: of legends,
and rumors, of the myths forged from memory—what’s true, and isn’t— that we make of ourselves and, even worse, of others. Not the all-but- muscular ache, the inner sweep of woundedness; no. Not tonight. Say the part again about the bluer flower, black at the edges. I’ve always loved that part. Skull of an ox, from which a smattering of stars keeps rising. How they decided never to use surrender as a word again.