The Scenery of Farewell (and Hello Again)
In the asylum's cadaver room,
janitor holds his lantern in wonder
over a barrel of breasts cut from the month's dead.
cannot be like this, we gasp.
It doesn't work this way.
it helps: they were sick, insane.
O.K., I know, I know, it doesn't help.
now, try to forget the janitor, the barrel,
what grows around us, around our hearts.
As in: sit up straight.
in: the whole, the aggregate.
The heart gets bigger as it dies,
I can feel it growing sometimes:
blue heron swelling above the river's tremble,
itself away from all it knows.
But for the heart's voice, the body would disappear
itself, shrinking like the flooded field
of horsetail reeds on this riverbank.
The heart's growth, I'm sure, has nothing to do with
the body, which could be the same at times.
The same as the asylum across the river and its reflection
the eyeglasses of the janitor,
each desperate version needing the other so deeply
even the janitor looks away from the buildings
and back towards the river,
ashamed at what the body can do,
the shape of love nestled down, pushed into the reeds.
Tumor: lamb's ear: gray button of nipple:
of Saint Agnes: Agnes in the trees.
How can we speak?
is how we make something ours.
We stare at it until it becomes us and we walk away
a fist-sized lump in our pocket,
humming a sad tune in case someone passing by
we're happy. And we are.
What is removed drops horribly into a pail.
we don't forget.
He wrapped it in a handkerchief. We wrapped it.
not to blame the heart.
It is soft and is filled with us,
filaments of cherry blossom, silent cathode.
The heart exists to grow, and to take a breast from the barrel
mean treason of the body.
How can we speak of it?
This is the conversation we didn't want to have.
course it has to do with love.
The body, however, can only go so far until it wears
we're left with the janitor, faceless in his overalls,
his hands alive with touching a softness that is completely new
our hands beginning to memorize that softness.
Knowing this won't help much.
a face, a guilty look over a shoulder.
The foxglove, the cornflower,
sky from the river's long road.
We want a scene, a place that remains real,
all this sad-getting-in-the-way-of.
The asylum, its awnings loose and ruined
the wind, the patients dressing the radiators
with soiled gowns. No, not that one.
heart can confuse. A field of reeds, then,
a sycamore, the janitor undressing on the riverbank.
that will do. Stare at it.
Forget everything that grows around it.
If it's possible, and I'm not sure if it is.
grove of the blind: handsome lamb: harvest this day.
The heart knows nothing of this place,
beyond the asylum's gates
and through the mist of poplar seeds,
and hilum, a heron's nest
in the tallest limbs,
it's not a question of knowing
the landscape and what hovers in it,
how it disappears into the horizon.
It's how a sycamore glowing in the twilight
a barn becomes ours now
by simply being there, existing.
We no longer have to stare. It is ours as we swim
darkness to a lighted boat across the river,
the breast slipping from our pocket,
the handkerchief's blossom
and the crawfish gathering in the bottom's current
at first amazed with the white oval of flesh,
halo of the above, until it dissolves,
nothing and the river remains.
The river is something we do not want to know.
difference between a heron flying low
in the distance over a marsh
a heron mangled by wild dogs at your feet:
it is the inner workings we avoid,
chart of wing and eye that reveals
what we've always feared,
and where we find ourselves
be much of a surprise, coming up for air,
the faint metallic taste of silt,
autumn in our mouths.
Let the heron remain blue in the evening air
widen over us.
Let the sycamore wait with our new white overalls
on the nails in its bark,
frozen in the half light of time, of farewells.
Let the river bring us to the boat
if we never entered it, our wrinkled hands
dry and strange, our lover lying naked
the bow under a lantern,
eager for the promised gift,
heart-shaped face of mutiny,
saying Hello, it's good to see you again.