We Will Be Left at Galilee
I floated through this disordered life,
By chance I have managed to return alive.
– Du Fu
I think it important to tell you
that some will be barred from the journey.
I think it crucial to realize
not everyone can go,
that we will be forced to abandon our compasses
and our tattered maps,
the faithful dog, blind and deaf, standing sentinel.
The nighlight left lit.
I think it imperative to go ahead and decide who
will hand out the pieces of paper,
who will pin the note explaining
what took place
to the sleeves.
These are the men I admit
to leaving. One invested in bankrupt real estate. One ushered
in planes with enormous orange flags. One kept his eyes locked on mine
when we kissed, quoted Tang dynasty poetry until I cried
stop, please, stop. One raced Italian bikes, another day another
second place, he laughed. One lived with four women
though not at the same time, loved
he said, none of them. One could never make me come
but knew how to tickle me until ecstasy. I admit
there might be others.
Hey, Du Fu, going deeper and deeper between flowers, prepare me
so that my hair will grow longer. Tell me
what will become of the poets?
Fanatics have their dreams,
the savage too
guesses at heaven.
I think it important to acknowledge
we’re not all in this together.
I think it important to accept that not all the wounded
are going to pull through.
Perhaps a few will understand when I say
lo mashireem ptzueem ba-shetakh
doesn’t always apply
even to soldiers.
Yet this happened just yesterday.
I was on the narrow highway leading to the Sea of Galilee.
Speed limit signs and stoplights lined up
like policemen on strike, all of them useless.
Traffic had backed up twenty kilometers.
Slowly word worked back window to window
of a terrible accident.
A few drivers leaned out of their vehicles,
shading their eyes, mouths twisted
with the same bitterness that clotted the August air, the smog
of the hundred idling engines.
The girl in the backseat looked up from the message
she was typing into her telephone,
there’s no way around it, she said, her blue green eyes,
the sun lightened lashes,
meeting mine. Far ahead, smoke
began to rise and one by one, the people stepped
from their cars
began running forward.
I think it crucial to confess that some
will beg to be taken.
Though others will cover their mouths, cut
out their tongues.
I think it important to acknowledge that decisions
have already been made
and that a few want to be left.
That even so
I think it essential to say to you
that we might not know
even at the end
if we’ve returned to Eden’s outer reaches or again to the road,
to tell you
what I’ve seen—
green and glintless
this imaginary lake.