On nights like this we used to swim in the quarry,
the boys making up games requiring them to tear off the girls’ clothes
and the girls cooperating, because they had new bodies since last summer
and they wanted to exhibit them, the brave ones
leaping off the high rocks – bodies crowding the water.
Reading what I have just written, I now believe
I stopped precipitously, so that my story seems to have been
slightly distorted, ending, as it did, not abruptly
but in a kind of artificial mist of the sort
sprayed onto stages to allow for difficult set changes.
All day I tried to distinguish
need from desire. Now, in the dark,
I feel only bitter sadness for us,
the builders, the planers of wood,
because I have been looking
steadily at these elms
and seen the process that creates
the writhing, stationary tree
is torment, and have understood
it will make no forms but twisted forms.
Is it winter again, is it cold again,
didn’t Frank just slip on the ice,
didn’t he heal, weren’t the spring seeds planted
didn’t the night end,
didn’t the melting ice
flood the narrow gutters
wasn’t my body
rescued, wasn’t it safe
didn’t the scar form, invisible
above the injury
terror and cold,
didn’t they just end, wasn’t the back garden
harrowed and planted –
The Untrustworthy Speaker
Don’t listen to me; my heart’s been broken.
I don’t see anything objectively.
I know myself; I’ve learned to hear like a psychiatrist.
When I speak passionately,
that’s when I’m least to be trusted.
Remember the days of our first happiness,
how strong we were, how dazed by passion,
lying all day, then all night in the narrow bed,
sleeping there, eating there too: it was summer,
it seemed everything had ripened
at once. And so hot we lay completely uncovered.
Sometimes the wind rose; a willow brushed the window.
Visitors from Abroad
Sometime after I had entered
that time of life
people prefer to allude to in others
but not in themselves, in the middle of the night
the phone rang. It rang and rang
as though the world needed me,
though really it was the reverse.
I’ll tell you something: every day
people are dying. And that’s just the beginning.
Every day, in funeral homes, new widows are born,
new orphans. They sit with their hands folded,
trying to decide about this new life.
My mother’s an expert in one thing:
sending people she loves into the other world.
The little ones, the babies – these
she rocks, whispering or singing quietly. I can’t say
what she did for my father;
whatever it was, I’m sure it was right.