I lived in somebody else’s
and this was the truth—
pilgrims wandered in their suits and hose dazzled
by blue mountains,
numerous plain monuments to holy things
I did not believe were real.
with a man, kind, but too sad to be
of consolation. I remember
of his face,
his back, a birth mark
in the shape of a ghost and the funnel of each day, of walking
after a storm
with the rent check, snow in blunt banks
against the ecstatic,
emptied sky, the sidewalks
Some nights on my porch,
I’d look up—
at what? Things beyond
monotone in their beyondness.
referent. Smug cold grit. The part
how to stand for a whole—for something like infinity.
I could not bear that scale.
Here’s a story:
banished for loving his uncle’s wife, Tristan entered
and separation filled his lover Isolde
like a black stain. She
did not wash, forgot
how to speak except for her
rumbles of doubt,
the boom of her solitude. You know this decay, how the body becomes
a clot of expendable
and in a wildness of
not caring, you
walk home at 2 am and
fall into a gun at the gut,
zipper is what you raise your eyes from to say
I don’t have anything.
I ask you, why does the world begin to wither
from our losses?
The pain separates from the stick,
shame from the night where you did
what you never wanted, the breath disappears
from what it insinuates?
I wish I could say my despair
didn’t become a kind of love,
quick under my hands, our language
clipped and silent passing
between us, the odor of despair’s sweat
thick and dizzy in my head
as each night I came to the edge
of the forest and
I’d shout out where are you?
and he would moan
as trees do
and I would stagger towards despair, was relieved—
more night of carrion comfort,
It was on Pentecost,
the seventh Sunday after Easter, when apostles
they might be murdered too.
Into this dark room
a blazing sun,
a ball of fire, is born
and in the paintings we see
a chiaroscuro of tongues
above each contorted face
and he knows he should
speak (in what language is necessary)
step out of the shuttered
into the atrium of the world.
Isolde knows that Tristan
will be riding through the forest on this day,
carves into a tree trunk a code,
tries to say all that she feels—
with a knife, she cuts her hands. And waits in the trees.
They spoke is what Marie
de France said about that meeting which
made Isolde so happy. I could have cried with relief—
it was a drug for some of us,
of speaking. Think of the honeysuckle,
the thrum of bees, a humid mouth,
breath, slippery tongue,
and oracular swirl of bliss.
Words, how you broke my heart,
fancy you—the baroque
costume, the exaggerated
stage makeup, and fat
soprano who played consumptive Mimi. Oh
curving façade of Q
and hiss of sibilant, broken
umbrella between the wind and my wind-
chapped cheeks. Oh
lush, maximalist syllable, O.
They spoke is how Marie
de France ended this story and I no longer believed
that an open mouth
could really be a portal, could rent
the way things were so
we could step through.
O sweet dependency,
I hated the choir’s
single eye on the poised
baton. And no matter
where I went
it seemed the faithful had already arrived.
Hearts metastasized, their hands
glowed. They strolled
through grocery stores,
postal lines, and on Sundays,
city parks. Transcendence, I said,
you can have it:
the whoosh upwards,
the open palm , the push
from this puny planet full of objects,
The stars were thick
and the Milky Way a pale ravine
over my head. Moon Lake because it was cold
Mules and horses
waited at a fence
and the muscular bay I worried for—he
had freed himself from the pen but remained near the others,
cropping the clover
on the other side. I could hear
the grinding of his teeth. A great
horned owl’s wings rattled
an empty cedar
a crowd of mule deer was
so near I could smell
their heat, the oil in their fur. I tell you
this is the truer ending—how
they calmly crossed the threshold
on thin legs and tiny feet,
too many to count, unintelligible,
into the black snarl of trees.