By November you already thought of returning,
rubbing Vaseline into your palms and the crevices
of your cracked heels. No napalm rained down in a foreign land,
no birth dates streamed across the screen to push our brothers into war.
This wasn’t the Seventies, but still all you wanted was a little morphine
when you sliced your thumb, longing for the steam of subways
seeping like tear gas through the metal vents, the breath
and dust of a thousand trains, the roar of machines deep
underground, the world preoccupied, unconcerned.
Once you decided I would be an angel of reckoning, when we awoke
surprised to have reached twenty-one unscathed, each limb, each lock
of hair intact and only scars to mark life’s passage.
You never promised to grow old, but allowed
me to carry you to Canada, the car laden with smoke,
quilts, the fishing rod tapping the window like a child demanding to be let go.
If only every road could have run so straight, even progress through cornfields,
over ridges and granite slopes, past pine trees aligned in regiments, blocking
the night’s sudden descent, the sun’s late awakening. If only I could know
the shape of each love’s progression before the ending.
Sometimes we must leave a story in the middle. No bridge burnt
between us, no doors leapt from their hinges. I watched you
dream of New York as I plotted acts of love,
of remorse. I should have known you’d never last the winter,
that I would see you gone, purposeful and courteous.
Now you write that the grass never dies where you are, it shines green
in January, even though it is now too cold to float on the sea, white and bare.
I skied the river alone tonight, my path lit by a constant moon.
It is unfathomable in winter, no river now, just ice and snow. I must wait
for spring; then it will be knowable once more and I will throw
each book and photograph into the rushing, southward flow. The wind now, it bears me
along, as though I might find something in the snow that I am not supposed to know.
News of you: it damns me. You tried to thaw the forest before you left,
the forest still, encased in ice and long bruised evenings that shroud the day.
You forgot the fires when you left, they rage on, into the night.