Two things I did on Hallows Night:—
Made my house April-clear;
Left open wide my door
To the ghosts of the year.
Then one came in. Across the room
It stood up long and fair—
The ghost that was myself—
And gave me stare for stare.
Wait, for now.
Distrust everything, if you have to.
But trust the hours. Haven’t they
carried you everywhere, up to now?
Personal events will become interesting again.
Hair will become interesting.
Pain will become interesting.
Buds that open out of season will become lovely again.
Second-hand gloves will become lovely again,
their memories are what give them
the need for other hands. And the desolation
of lovers is the same: that enormous emptiness
carved out of such tiny beings as we are
asks to be filled; the need
for the new love is faithfulness to the old.
Don’t go too early.
You’re tired. But everyone’s tired.
But no one is tired enough.
Only wait a while and listen.
Music of hair,
Music of pain,
music of looms weaving all our loves again.
Be there to hear it, it will be the only time,
most of all to hear,
the flute of your whole existence,
rehearsed by the sorrows, play itself into total exhaustion.
The shadows get to cover
the afternoon. Even birds
are folded away. A green
squash on the sill, the heart
full of seeds. The blackthorn,
berries pulped to blood
on the ground. His sleep
is one portion of shadow,
a thing cobwebbed in a corner,
something to be worked
over and over. One strand
for the kettle, the pewter-color
rain. A strand for the room,
the orchards, his father
opaque as a lover within them.
Under a tree the wadded coat.
The way back to somewhere
is only a wish until waking.
Then the darker fall, gust
of whiteness. The tree a lung
spread on the window.
All night, the lawn snowed upon
blue as a shirt. Each instant
recovered, meant to grant
clarity, though what we wanted
to see has now been forgotten.
No further, and no return.
Not even the ten plagues, what
each body has to live into.
What the pharaoh lived.
From now on they always are, for years now
they always have been, but from now on you know
they are, they always will be,
from now on when they cry and you say
wryly to their mother, better you than me,
you’d better mean it, you’d better
hand over what you can’t have, and gracefully.
Days you are sick, we get dressed slow,
find our hats, and ride the train.
We pass a junkyard and the bay,
then a dark tunnel, then a dark tunnel.
You lose your hat. I find it. The train
sighs open at Burlingame,
past dark tons of scrap and water.
I carry you down the black steps.
Burlingame is the size of joy:
a race past bakeries, gold rings
in open black cases. I don’t care
who sees my crooked smile
or what erases it, past the bakery,
when you tire. We ride the blades again
beside the crooked bay. You smile.
I hold you like a hole holds light.
We wear our hats and ride the knives.
They cannot fix you. They try and try.
Tunnel! Into the dark open we go.
Days you are sick, we get dressed slow.
My mind is shuffling its deck tonight,
slipping one card over another,
letting them all fall together at the corners;
the random hand of memory
is dealing from the bottom of the pack.
First: a bearded man emptying
the dragon kiln, then a woman
whistling, her face turned away
as she opens the oven. Next:
a big cat, six toes on each paw,
climbing up the yardpole. Last:
a pair of workhorses circling a tree
until they grind themselves to dust.
There is no one home in the world
tonight. Everyone is out of range.
The cradles are empty, the boughs
broken down. Trees go helter-skelter
and the wheel is creaking on its shaft.
Hit me, I say to the dealer. Hit me again.
If you believe in the magic of language,
then Elvis really Lives
and Princess Diana foretold I end as car spin.
If you believe the letters themselves
contain a power within them,
then you understand
what makes outside tedious,
how desperation becomes a rope ends it.
The circular logic that allows senator to become treason,
and treason to become atoners.
That eleven plus two is twelve plus one,
and an admirer is also married.
That if you could just rearrange things the right way
you’d find your true life,
the right path, the answer to your questions:
you’d understand how the Titanic
turns into that ice tin,
and debit card becomes bad credit.
How listen is the same as silent,
and not one letter separates stained from sainted.