THERE WAS NOTHING EVER TO FORGIVE YOU FOR
There was nothing ever to forgive you for
I’d say to you now if you were still alive.
Pain doesn’t maintain an agent,
though as many who have lived
have been named as perpetrators;
it just occurs
like happiness just happens
like a stroke of luck, a touch of grace
in an astronomical lottery of famished chances.
Voices arise in my head to address you
in the immensities of time and sorrow
like spokesmen for my heart
and another part of me
listens from the audience to this play
that’s been going on for light years without you.
I suspect I’m still trying to perfect the way I loved you
out of force of habit, knowing how
redundant and absurd that is
long after the play closed
and the plaster cherubs
on the Ionian cornices of the theatre
were buried in the rubble
along with the comic and tragic masks
that shed their petals when the lights went off
and everyone was left face to face with themselves.
You have drifted in and out of my poems for years
like a curtain at an open window
in an abandoned house,
like blue smoke from an autumn fire,
the fragrance of the bath you draw from the stars
and sweeten with the salts of lunar wildflowers
whenever you want to renew your virginity
like the kings’ mistress
stepping out of the sea
like some Renaissance Venus
covering her sex up with a serpentine lock of hair.
You’re the sparrow on the finger of Catullus’ lover
except now you can only make it as far
as my windowsill
though I leave everything open to you
to come and go as you please and must.
No illusory skies. No broken necks.
No more finger-stroking the soft walnut of a bird’s head
like a lost locket full of grief,
like a small lamp that can’t grant anymore wishes
however you caress it.
Ah, the genie’s out mingling with the Milky Way
like all unencompassed spirits of the night,
like dead souls in the bodies of Canada geese
though their echoes are veering northeast
as if their homeless ghosts
had a place and mind of their own,
an airy nothingness
without a local habitation or a name.
In my view of the world as picture-music
in an expanding universe with its foot to the floor
on a pedal of dark energy
the vision’s always too big
for any frame or stage or star map
you bring to it to try and express
where things are improbably at now.
We were young together for awhile
and we sought to embrace the world
and everything in it
even if it meant kissing the dead on the forehead
to wake them up gently from their long dream
of flying in formation with Canada geese,
though it never did.
I tried it on you more than once.
I kissed every bead on a rosary of prophetic skulls.
And still to this day no one answers, no one hears.
I tried to scry the future
in the crystal balls of my tears
but all I ever saw was the same old moon,
the same old stars that crossed us off
their birthday guest list
like a calendar of total eclipses
that had already taken place.
And I knew the future was far behind us.
And your early death could only make you more beautiful
as the years wore out their threadbare flying carpets
and those rare bright nocturnal spirits of life
you were meant to meet and fall in love with
like the heart loves its bloodstream
like a waterclock loves the passage of time
when it’s full to overbrimming
with water on the moon
grow rarer and further apart
like stars on the skin of our cosmic enlargements.
Just like this open window
that never lets eternity become a barrier to the dead.
I’ve never closed the curtains on the play.
I’ve never drawn a veil over
the fountains and the waterfalls
the wetlands and rapids of my mindstream
and said to the lady of the lake
in her garment of mist
this is live water
and that water’s dead
as if there were a wave of difference
between the one that carries forth
and the one that carries away.
The cloud and the snow on the mountaintop
both speak the same language,
share the same mother-tongue
as does the fog in the valley
the ice, the rain, the dew,
as if what’s false about the living
were true of the dead as well,
everything sublime, everything trivial.
Hydra-headed water shapeshifting
through our hands
like the desert sands of an hourglass
that dump the pyramid
and finally get out of the box.
with transmogrifying mindstreams
that apply themselves like water
to mending gardens on the moon
while death waits like a stranger at the gate
to commend you on the green thumb
that’s apparent in your choice of wildflowers.
I can still feel you bend time
like the body of a guitar
when you’re around me
trying to tune the spider webs
in the corner of the room I write in
to your cosmic whole note of silence.
And just as you were a muse of mine in life
and I drew your intoxicating waters
deeply from the well
and we walked under the stars awhile
without caring where we were going
so even in death
I can feel you come to the dead branch sometimes
like inspiration to a night bird’s heart
when it doesn’t really matter
if anyone answers or not
because you flower like longing
in the roots of my solitude
and the moon blossoms
and my poems unfold like leaves.