DRIVING THE SAME ROAD
Driving the same road years later without you.
Looking at those things,
the boulder in the fork of the tree
like a giant slingshot
or the head of a baby
coming out backwards
between its mother’s legs,
all the endless explanations you had
for how and why things got here
now nothing but voiceless mutes in your absence.
But absence is too kind a word
to intimate the subtler death I feel
drawing its sharper knife across my jugular
like the Sanskrit word for conciousness
as if severance were the compassionate side of vacancy.
There’s nothing impaled on the dead trees
except for the occassional empty heron’s nest
thrust through the icebound beaver pond
where we used to slow down to spot beavers
but it’s still humped by as many lodges as it ever was
and the road’s still not out of danger.
I’m much more of a stranger now
than I was then
to all these things that go on without us
as if they had never been cherished by us in passage
as roadside shrines along the way
like the collapsing one room schoolhouse
abandoned like the empty envelope
of a lost loveletter
that left nothing to say in return but the silence.
I’m out of place in this era of my life
I’m passing through like a ghost
with more answers about the afterlife of the outcome
that became of me and you
than there are sad questions to ask them
and my solitude is deepened
by a seance of one
and I’m so weary of wounded secrets
talking in their sleep about having no regrets
they survived everything
I’m praying like a dream with no luck
for a life I can wake up from.
The lightning-struck pines
we named the Three Sisters
no longer recognize me
and the gate on the cow-pasture
where they still stand
like stone-walled gorgons
is hanging by a hinge.
And the farm that was paradise awhile
before we jumped
where we lived among sunflowers
listening to the honeybees in the locust trees
and painting ten hours a day in the fields
for months at a time
further and further from home
until we got lost one night together in the woods
and were retroactively enlightened
by the dangers of finding our way back
like wary animals among animals;
the farm is a graveyard of backhoes now
and there are people in it
overliving us like a field gone back to bush.
I don’t grieve our separation.
I know all the hairs we split to go our separate ways.
You couldn’t be famous in my shadow
and I couldn’t be anonymous in yours.
There were no Sufis
whirling in a gust of weathervanes
when the weather turned against us.
Just the vertigo of not knowing what way to go
but knowing you must
or go under.
Everything was blind.
Everything was a sign.
I didn’t know if I could make it through
another new beginning
you couldn’t wait.
So I left the gate open
and one night you closed it behind you for good.
I wanted you to be the first to leave
because I knew more about the deserts to come
so for months after
I just sat there alone
like a dead lightbulb in a dry housewell
sucking on my phallic thumb
knowing there was nothing left to keep warm
and waiting for my new teeth to come in.
I practised the brutal discipline
of being me on my own
when I doubted I had the courage
to bluff my way through the changes
as the abyss put on flesh
and walked around as if it were me
trying on avatars that couldn’t save me
from the emptiness that embodied them.
I miss you sometimes
but less and less often over the years
though there’s still more iron than rust in my tears
and I try with better and better results
I still can’t quite forget
you put my heart like a rose through surgery
without an anaesthetic
and there are still dry petals of blood
you amputated like eyelids
snagged like tiny flags
you never honoured
furled around the thorns.
I still can’t lawyer my way
through the innocence of your atrocities
as if the moon had fallen on its own horns.
Maybe you were too crazy
to know what you were doing
and you couldn’t help yourself
as time and compassion would see it.
But whatever gets said or doesn’t
things were just as dead
when they went to your head
as they were when they tried to flee it.
And I wasn’t enough of an asylum to know why
my prophetic skull lied to me
like a bad alibi
everytime I excused my murder
in the name of your homocidal youth
as if unconditional love meant being martyred
by the loveless proof of the godless truth
you had made a mistake
and it was too late to correct the heretic
that went up in Renaissance flames
fed by Botticellian picture-frames
at the Bonfire of the Vanities.
You were a Napoleon airtight
that burned so hot
there was never any soot on your window.
My demons were martyred
for insanities they couldn’t conceive
ever believing in,
but you were true to your deceptions
and I was blacklisted by the secret police
that tormented your paranoid perfections
with false confessions I never made.
And that’s the way things have stayed
for the last twelve years on the record
like the striations of a retreating ice-age
that clawed at the rocks
to keep from flowing out of itself
like many weak threads from one strong rope
over the edge of the known universe
where the mindstream doesn’t need
a lonely lamp and light in the darkness
to follow its own course
back to the sea of night it sprang from.
But what’s saddest of all to me
driving through this used landscape
that used to be the way home
through all kinds of weather
remembering the innocence
of what we hoped for from each other and life
is knowing the abysmal disappointment that would follow
as if time didn’t flow
it just evaporated.
It’s demeaning to the spirit of life
to wish you knew then
what you say you know now
as if you always wanted to begin at the end
without ever crossing a threshold.
So I don’t wish for anything more
than what is given me moment by moment
knowing what can’t be taken away
is already forsaken
but that’s not a reason to repent,
that’s not a season of lament
that’s just the way things are.
There’s always a full moon
buried in every scar
like a harvest of starwheat
we leave for the birds
like ghosts in the garden to reap.