Saturday, January 02, 2010

the years

A kitchen light, an off-color floorboard.
A bra dangling from a Japanese folding screen.
It’s spring again, I’m twenty-three again;
I ache and feel wonder again.
The strains of Schubert from the morning radio
carve grooves too deep to be smoothed.
Three apartment buildings outside your window
climb skyward in a cubist frenzy
as a frieze of eighth notes descend
like stoplights over Harlem.
Yeah, so we’re young again, or old,
or whatever it is we say when re-gripped
by our best, most terrible desires—

And why the hell are we always on the set
of some opera every time we’re falling
in or out of love? With a flourish,
this is how to remember being twenty-two: lovesick
and cold, I’m waiting outside your building
on a street obliterated by snow.
My hands, your hands, and yet it’s
the voices of strangers that cut through
the one o’clock dark of a dying December.
Let’s go wither on that balcony of yours
with its snow-sheathed balustrades
and bathe in some Wagner for a change.
Why should stillness
always have to fall over everything?
Why not hollow out the dark this time?
These, questions for the gods,
who know everything, see everything—

While we mortals sit on the sides
of county roads, like bugs,
pretending to look at maps
against the failing autumn sun.
It’s warm and you’re splayed across the hood
of the weathered two-door your papa
bequeathed you. That shirt, those cutoffs,
the endless ribbon of skin around your waist.
My arms, my eyes, this helix-strand of highway,
this golden waste of wheatfields.
Being crushed by desire is a god
great enough for twenty-one,
but the hills and the trees there
seem painted now in watercolor,
the landscape swollen with silence.
The world ashes its cigarette and asks,
was that really it? Everything is forgotten now,
and quiet, and equal—

So maybe all I had I lost in a gasp
some summers back. Sun hanging low
in the window again, sumptuous as a tangerine.
A pair of heels. A row of eyeliner.
A boombox with a broken volume knob.
And then, the dark.
It’s not so easy to do this again,
but on we go, at least to remember
what was lost
of our better selves—

And on we go,
'til we are forgot.

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