Goodbye in Slow Motion with All Those Trees Waving Back
As if these words could alter wind’s lucid course
And make the trees wave hello again;
As if the wind had something new to bless,
Confess; that, finally, today’s losses were palpable, explicable
Even; as if there were a reason for this self-pity
To descend again like shade
From the maples and lilacs and palms,
The sweet peach and lacquered locust,
Those cherries, chestnuts, and oranges…. It has to be
All of them, all of them
lining those streets whose names I loved:
Calle de la Bonanova, Rue Descartes, Aldstadter Ring,
And further still, Coates and Sharon, which aren’t
In Barcelona, Paris, or Prague, but from Sharon Hill, from childhood,
Places that doesn’t exist anymore.
As if childhood were some tourist destination to visit
Off season, walking those sun-stroked sidewalks,
Sipping wine in the street-side cafés, saying hello to those
I’ll never know in a tongue I used to know.
As if anyone’s history were myth, and that myth an unconditional love
For loss. As if sorry didn’t exist,
Any need for sorry.
If only childhood would tell the wind where to go,
If only it had a home.
If only this poem could hold childhood in its hands—
All gnarl-knuckled, chapped, blood-cracked—long enough
To say goodbye, to the bartender in Prague
Who was from Brooklyn, who talked with me awhile
About what home can’t mean to him anymore, who got lost
Hiking in the Alpines and “ended up in here somehow, never left….”
As if childhood’s a place never left and never found, never
Said goodbye to;
As if that mattered now, as if there were time enough
To say goodbye to childhood
With all the slowness loss demands;
As if loss and childhood were distinct.
As if there were someone to talk with, walk and smoke with.
Besides, after awhile, we’d feel a need to sleep,
This me and that you I once was,
Our skin chilled a little, turning to gooseflesh a little, swept
By an August breeze weaving its way through the trees.
It doesn’t matter, though, does it?
You’ve already begun to name the trees for yourself.
But feel that?
The trees are waving, too.
I’d like to teach you the names of these trees, to confess
How much I need to miss you to finish this off.
“Goodbye in Slow Motion with All Those Trees Waving Back” first appeared in The American Poetry Review.