Blackbirdan online journal of literature and the artsSpring 2020  Vol. 19 No. 1
an online journal of literature and the arts
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Just a sliver of light
has jimmied the clouds loose—
a thief picking a lock of sky
—though for a while longer,
maybe an hour,
the sun won’t be noticeable
on the slopes of Snake Mountain,
and netted over the leafless grove
of cherry and maple
holding up yesterday’s snow.
If memory could take a shape
I think it would have the hands
of that thief. If I think of one place,
the chintz of it in the snowpack
melting away, I can also remember
the place underneath this one, the heaviness
of ice turning the rhododendron
to a flock of nuthatches at rest.
Beyond the window the wind rests
and clears a way in a hundred directions
and in the quarter dark I can just make out
an albino crow on a hillside
and behind her the two others
standing so still that the blue stem
seems more alive, and the uphill crows
could be shadows
made flesh. Now I could mistake
the real thing for the unreal
and then come to find out
memory is both.
In the place beneath
the loud kingdom
of my skull, I become the thief
breaking into what I left behind
as in once, out the elevator doors
years ago at a party in Greenwich Village
where men and women covered
in diamonds and gold and wearing
the finest clothes I’ve ever seen
sprawled out on skin rugs
waiting to be served by people
my age, cutting carrots
in black uniforms
and moving through the crowd
with trays of hors d’oeuvres
and champagne
and I can see how far I am
from them as the onions
are again starting to simmer,
the glasses are clinging
in celebration, and the knives
dream poignant and bright.
I can remember that life,
the one inside of this one,
and so I must think also
of the one still to come.
Here, with all my cells—
the multitudes of lightlessness
traveling through me
to which I’ve strapped every
desire and loss,
I listen to the wind saying
Come with me, be the air
for a little while. Here,
everything has a voice
if you hold your ear to it
or place the pads of your fingers
against it to feel the music
tremble. Sometimes when I am alone,
reading a stack of old poems and listening
to a passing truck headed
to who knows where,
I lace up my boots
to walk through the woods.
I like how everything
starts to sing if I’m quiet enough
and so even the discolored grasses,
the decurrent spindles of lichens, even this
stray hair of starlight, they have a song,
the living and the dead. And there is
a hum on the rusted Massey Ferguson
and on the scuffed asbestos tiles
of the forgot-about hospital
and in the ditches where
the stones have turned blind
as the sun through the haze of clouds.
And as I walk I know there is music
made of the way I open the air
and the day waits, unafflicted before me,
stepping onto the high ridgeline
listening for my country.  

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