Sea-Level Elegy

Monday, July 16, 2012

Once a year, for a minute, I let myself
go back, to the summer rental, the stairs
down into the earth, I let myself descend them
and turn, and pass the washing machine, and go
into the bedroom, one wall the solid
pane the warbler flew into skull-first,
the opposite wall the deep, bright
seagoing mirror. Even now,
I see us, long horizontals
in the green pool of the wall, speckled
by the silt of the old plate glass, spotted
like other animals. Above us are the pine
planks, planed, and sawn aslant,
and marked with the boot-sole ridges of the builders’
Timberlands. And there, behind the pillows, are the
alcoves in which the owners kept lasts
of shoes, like wooden feet, Petrarchan
ankle slippers, out from the toe
the last-tip sprouting — how many times, as if
risen from inside the earth, where I’d seemed to have
ocean-fathoms-flown, with him,
scarcely recognizing, my gaze would
travel over the hermetic shapes of the
dummies shoemakers had shod. And I had clothed him
with my body and been clothed with his, again,
again, unquestioned, not fully seen,
not wanting to fully see. And now,
the image of him has gone inside
the raw closet, the naked bulb’s
blazing golden pear beside his
August-island shaggy head.
That’s it. Once, each summer, I howl,
and draw myself back, out of there, where
beauty and joy, where ignorance, where
touch and the ideal, where unwilled yet willful
blindness — once a year, I have mercy,
I let myself go down where I have lived, and then,
hand over hand, I pull myself back up.

Sunday, July 1, 2012