But I know that you know how your palms itch when you’re alone,
when the electricity goes off,
and the silence whirls in your stomach.
I know that you know how hard it is
to dress in white after wearing black,
to have your arms not merge into the day
but be signs by the road,
and to have nobody, Laurie, nobody travel
down your roads.
Despite that you
wrote your name
on its fuselage
in magic marker
neither your quiet
hours at the kitchen
it with glue
nor your choice of
paint and lacquer
nor your seemingly
choice of a seemingly
for the launch of
nor the thrill
of its swift ignition
nor the heights
nor the dancing
way you chase
will ever be
restored to you
by the people
in the topmost
branches of whose trees
it may yet from
Let’s not forget the General
Shuffling out in his gray slippers
To feed the pigeons in Logan Square.
He wore a battered White Sox cap
And a heavy woolen scarf tossed
Over his shoulder, even in summer.
I remember how he muttered to himself
And coughed into his newspaper
And complained about his gout
To the other Latvian exiles,
The physicist who lived on Gogol Street
In Riga, my grandfather’s hometown,
The auxiliary policeman from Daugavpils,
And the chemical engineer,
Who always gave me hard candy,
Though grandfather spit
And grandmother hurried me away
When she saw them coming.
How lovely it is not to go. To suddenly take ill.
Not seriously ill, just a little under the weather.
To feel slightly peaked, indisposed. Plagued by
a vague ache, or a slight inexplicable chill.
Perhaps such pleasures are denied
to those who never feel obliged. If there are such.
How pleasant to convey your regrets. To feel sincerely
sorry, but secretly pleased to send them on their way
without you. To entrust your good wishes to others.
To spare the equivocal its inevitable rise.
How nice not to hope that something will happen,
but to lie on the couch with a book, hoping that
nothing will. To hear the wood creak and to think.
It is lovely to stay without wanting to leave.
How delicious not to care how you look,
clean and uncombed in the sheets. To sip
brisk mineral water, to take small bites
off crisp Saltines. To leave some on the plate.
To fear no repercussions. Nor dodge
the unkind person you bug.
Even the caretaker has gone to the party.
If you want something you will have to
get it yourself. The blue of the room seduces.
The cars of the occupied sound the wet road.
You indulge in a moment of sadness, make
a frown at the notion you won’t be missed.
This is what it is. You have opted to be
forgotten so that your thoughts might live.
For our own private reasons
We live in each other for an hour.
Stranger, I take your body and its seasons,
Aware the moon has gone a little sour
For us. The moon hangs up there like a stone
Shaken out of its proper setting.
We lie down in each other. We lie down alone
and watch the moon’s flawed marble getting
Out of hand. What are the dead doing tonight?
The padlocks of their tongues embrace the black,
Each syllable locked in place, tucked out of sight.
Even this moon could never pull them back,
Even if it held them in its arms
And weighed them down with stones,
Took them entirely on their own terms
And piled the orchard’s blossom on their bones.
I am aware of your body and its dangers.
I spread my cloak for you in leafy weather
Where other fugitives and other strangers
Will put their mouths together.
In the dead calm of night, when the stars are all shining,
The deep, silent shadows lie cold o’er my head,
And the wind, like a sad spirit, round the house pining,
Calls up from their quiet the tones of the dead.
Almost I can see them who rustle the curtain,
And flit past my cheek like a cold waft of air;
I hear their faint sighs and their footsteps uncertain,
I need not a vision to know they are there.
They call from the past all its bitterest warnings,
And trail the gray ghosts through my shuddering soul,
The nights of lone grief and the desolate mornings,
The long days of anguish that mocked my control.
Then comes the still angel who watches me ever,
And numbers the tears of my sleepless despair,
And for each sullen drop that assuages its fever,
The angel stoops softly, and kisses my hair.
And at dawn I perceive in those shadowy tresses
Bright silvery threads, as they fall o’er my breast,
And I know where the angel has left his caresses,
A promise and pledge that he hastens my rest.
And they will gather by the well,
its dark water a mirror to catch whatever
stars slide by in the slow precession of
the skies, the tilting dome of time,
over all, a light mist like a scrim,
and here and there some clouds
that will open at the last and let
the moon shine through; it will be
at the wheel’s turning, when
three zeros stand like paw-prints
in the snow; it will be a crescent
moon, and it will shine up from
the dark water like a silver hook
without a fish—until, as we lean closer,
swimming up from the well, something
dark but glowing, animate, like live coals—
it is our own eyes staring up at us,
as the moon sets its hook;
and they, whose dim shapes are no more
than what we will become, take up
their long-handled dippers
of brass, and one by one, they catch
the moon in the cup-shaped bowls,
and they raise its floating light
to their lips, and with it, they drink back
our eyes, burning with desire to see
into the gullet of night: each one
dips and drinks, and dips, and drinks,
until there is only dark water,
until there is only the dark.