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 I would like to give them for a change is not the usual prescription with its hubris of the power to restore, to cure; what I would like to give them, ill from not enough of laying in the sun not caring what the onlookers might think while feeding some banana to their dogs— what I would like to offer them is this, not reassurance that their lungs sound fine, or that the mole they’ve noticed change is not a melanoma, but instead of fear transfigured by some doctorly advice I’d like to give them my astonishment at sudden rainfall like the whole world weeping, and how ridiculously gently it slicked down my hair; I’d like to give them that, the joy I felt while staring in your eyes as you learned epidemiology (the science of disease in populations), the night around our bed like timelessness, like comfort, like what I would give to them.
Lately, remembering anything involves an ability to forget something else. Watching the news, I writhe and moan; my mind is not itself. Lying next to a begonia from which black ants come and go, I drink a vodka. Night falls. This seems a balm for wounds that are not visible in the gaudy daylight. Sometimes a friend cooks dinner; our lives commingle. In loneliness, I fear me, but in society I’m like a soldier kneeling on soft mats. Everything seems possible, as when I hear birds that awaken at 4 a.m. or see a veil upon a face. Beware, the heart is lean red meat. The mind feeds on this. I carry on my shoulder a bow and arrow for protection. I believe whatever I do next will surpass what I have done.
Unmoved by what the wind does, The windows Are not rattled, nor do the various Areas Of the house make their usual racket– Creak at The joints, trusses, and studs. Instead, They are still. And the maples, Able At times to raise havoc, Evoke Not a sound from their branches Clutches. It’s my night to be rattled, Saddled With spooks. Even the half-moon (Half-man, Half half dark), on the horizon, Lies on Its side casting a fishy light Which alights On my Floor, lavishly lording Its morbid Look over me. Oh I feel dead, Folded Away in my blankets for good, and Forgotten. My room is clammy and cold, Moonhandled And weird. The shivers Wash over Me, shaking my bones, my loose ends Loosen, And I lie sleeping with one eye open, Hoping That nothing, nothing will happen
What needs my Shakespeare for his honoured bones, The labor of an age in pilèd stones, Or that his hallowed relics should be hid Under a star-ypointing pyramid? Dear son of Memory, great heir of fame, What need’st thou such weak witness of thy name? Thou in our wonder and astonishment Hast built thyself a live-long monument. For whilst to th’ shame of slow-endeavouring art, Thy easy numbers flow, and that each heart Hath from the leaves of thy unvalued book Those Delphic lines with deep impression took, Then thou, our fancy of itself bereaving, Dost make us marble with too much conceiving; And so sepúlchred in such pomp dost lie, That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.
I want to give more of my time to others the less I have of it, give it away in a will and testament, give it to the girls’ club, give it to the friends of the urban trees.
Your life is not your own and never was. It came to you in a box marked fragile. It came from the complaint department like amends on an order you did not place with them. Who gave me this chill life.
It came with no card. It came without instruction. It said this end up though I do not trust those markings. I have worn it upside downs. I have washed it without separating and it did not shrink. Take from it what you will. I will
1. How much poison are you willing to eat for the success of the free market and global trade? Please name your preferred poisons.
2. For the sake of goodness, how much evil are you willing to do? Fill in the following blanks with the names of your favorite evils and acts of hatred.
3. What sacrifices are you prepared to make for culture and civilization? Please list the monuments, shrines, and works of art you would most willingly destroy.
4. In the name of patriotism and the flag, how much of our beloved land are you willing to desecrate? List in the following spaces the mountains, rivers, towns, farms you could most readily do without.
5. State briefly the ideas, ideals, or hopes, the energy sources, the kinds of security, for which you would kill a child. Name, please, the children whom you would be willing to kill.