At sixteen he dismisses his mother with contempt.
She hears with dread the repulsive wave’s approach
and her fifty-year-old body smothers under water.
An old man loses half his weight, as if by stealth,
but finds in his shed his great-grandfather’s knobbly cane,
and hobbles toward youth beside the pond’s swart water.
She listens to the dun-colored whippoorwill’s
three-beat before dawn, and again when dusk
enters the cornfield parched and wanting water.
He imagines but cannot bring himself to believe
that the dead woman enters his house disguised
or that the young rabbi made vin rouge from water.
Within the poem he and she—hot, cold, and luke—
converge into flesh of vowels and consonant bones
or into uncanny affection of earth for water.
(after some woodcuts of Edvard Munch)
The backs twist with the kiss
and the mouth which is the hurt
and the green depth of it
holds plainly the hour.
The aim loses its lie.
We are victims, and we shift
in the cloyed wind, the dark
harm. No, in the thick
of rubbed numbness, and we
are the winter of the air,
and the non-nothing, blurred,
bound, motion declared.
At night, wound in the clothes
of the groomed and unendured,
where the five hands of wire
rasp, hurt me and fold,
we love. Love is a kiss
which adheres like the feet
of a green lizard to walls
whole days, and is gone.
She was all around me
like a rainy day,
and though I walked bareheaded
I was not wet. I walked
on a bare path
singing light songs
A blue wing tilts at the edge of the sea.
The wreck of the small
drifted to the high tide line,
tangled in seaweed, green
glass from the sea.
The tiny skeleton inside
remembers the falter of engines, the
silence, the cry without
answer, the long dying
and out of the sea.
Pale gold of the walls, gold
of the centers of daisies, yellow roses
pressing from a clear bowl. All day
we lay on the bed, my hand
stroking the deep
gold of your thighs and your back.
We slept and woke
entering the golden room together,
lay down in it breathing
caressing and dozing, your hand sleepily
touching my hair now.
We made in those days
tiny identical rooms inside our bodies
which the men who uncover our graves
will find in a thousand years,
shining and whole.
when my father had been dead a week
with his voice in my ear
I sat up in bed
and held my breath
and stared at the pale closed door
white apples and the taste of stone
if he called again
I would put on my coat and galoshes
Hear his voice
If he and she do not know each other, and feel confident
they will not meet again; if he avoids affectionate words;
if she has grown insensible skin under skin; if they desire
only the tribute of another’s cry; if they employ each other
as revenge on old lovers or families of entitlement and steel—
then there will be no betrayals, no letters returned unread,
no frenzy, no hurled words of permanent humiliation,
no trembling days, no vomit at midnight, no repeated
apparition of a body floating face-down at the pond’s edge
To grow old is to lose everything.
Aging, everybody knows it.
Even when we are young,
we glimpse it sometimes, and nod our heads
when a grandfather dies.
Then we row for years on the midsummer
pond, ignorant and content. But a marriage,
that began without harm, scatters
into debris on the shore,
and a friend from school drops
cold on a rocky strand.
If a new love carries us
past middle age, our wife will die
at her strongest and most beautiful.
New women come and go. All go.
The pretty lover who announces
that she is temporary
is temporary. The bold woman,
middle-aged against our old age,
sinks under an anxiety she cannot withstand.
Another friend of decades estranges himself
in words that pollute thirty years.
Let us stifle under mud at the pond’s edge
and affirm that it is fitting
and delicious to lose everything.