The Gazing Eye Falls through the World
—for Ono No Komachi, 834-880 A. D.
Philadelphia, almost dawn. The Delaware stares
A hawk's claw moon again, hung barely,
And there goes a train clearing snow
Why, she's dreaming of moving again
The heart does break.
Ono No Komachi did not beg for her beauty back
Nor did they force her to see her age anymore
Smarter. Yet, I exist, is the line she hides.
Her eyes, hazel if the sun glanced her face
Would tell it another way, distilling, as they had for years,
Its wind carrying the scent of a snuffed candle, until
Containing no lines . . .
A stack of white paper, in fact, packed
Even if this story weren't true, I'd still tell it.
I traveled with a woman whose eyes reminded me of Komachi's,
And on a train stranded outside Strongsville, Ohio,
The trees rustling lullabyed like waves.
I'm keeping this picture.
In another, the man—crack, angel dust, loss—who
clicked the camera
In one of those blue Nantucket chairs.
Her feet don't touch the grass, and behind us
Into Michigan, a horizon of stains stirring
These kinds of epiphanies, Friends, rise as blown snow,
And her, now, and her muffled laughter
Her laughter and surprise mingling with pity
At the man shifting his legs and arms, looking
Into this last decade of his life, one failed attempt
How he almost moved in concert with things
He could see from the high window of his room.
And now it's me fretting over that day when he held
The ball of his hand to his temple, the gesture
Of Aquinas flirting with confusion, only
To disappear into a fog covering all things
He had resumed his sermon, the one with no ending,
Sulfur of a snuffed flame and crystal-led breath
He shook, briefly, and dropped the camera to the grass,
Indifferently as a dirty shirt, or a notepad full of slant rhymes,
She couldn't speak, so she laughed.
Happiness, perhaps; belief
In an incalculable beauty of numbers;
The sound of her voice hailing a taxi to the airport.
And so once more the scene is full of perfect reminders,
Whatever form harmony decides not to take:
The Delaware carrying a baby carriage, wheels-up;
A rusted muffler pushed into its bank; and deeper still,
Her freckled forehead when she used to lean over me
And now . . . the searing bliss of the runner's
And the names we gave, the smallest stories
Jelly Bean, Baby Man, Gloria & Zeus, Honey Suckle.
. . .
I will, with practice, and extravagant, long-winded lists.
Still, they were all we had, so we held onto them,
For reality, whatever that may come to be.
Today, it's a river, snow in the form of words,
Gravitates toward other sadnesses.
Each night, after his third Scotch, and feeling an air
The lowest b flat his alto allowed.
The smoke grew from the bell like a lily,
And when he was done, he streamed the rest
This was triage for the soul, and while cancer transcribed itself
Which came from the reed.
It burned a little and carried a hint of tobacco, maple wood,
And Glenlivet 18.
When he leaned over to kiss the girl he thought he saw and knew,
Actually, there were many,
Though their names became one drawn-out phrase
Or b flat. It's easy
To get lazy in a world like this, to let the shoulders slump
To let the eyes fall through it all, like light.
Near the end, she and I simply stopped listening
Of confused indifference:
A flick of hair over the shoulder, tapped ash, the head bent
Opened and releasing its smoke, enhancing
It takes a while to figure this.
It's meant to.
Good-bye anticipates both sides of nothing.