Our grief came from wanting to be whole.
We heard a bird, we became the bird--
angry wren, insidious thrush, gauche starling,
or just the whoosh of wings.
We thought ‘we became the bird’
and became that thought.
Not that we disappeared
into the city like mercury--
we were more like iron filings
drawn by an unknown magnet
always in the same lines of force.
We took off our clothes.
We became linen and corduroy.
We became the naked lover,
that sorrow, that delight--
We were the little pull
of the zipper, the resistance
of a snug button.
We tugged at the snap
and it was open--the gesture had no memory--
but we wanted to be single-pointed,
man or woman, infidel or worshiper. ,
temporary or eternal.
We wanted to be saints or traitors.
There were a million miracles, but what counted
was which wish was granted last.
So the great war began.
We woke after midnight,
it was snowing, we were almost married,
a car was passing with a loose muffler
dragging on the asphalt--we imagined
a little vine of sparks--
we thought ‘vanishing’--
a tongue of pale light licked the ceiling
and we dreamt we could feel the bombing.
Towards day we thought we heard the birds
crying for the cold.
We washed ourselves and became the lapping, the sheen,
the porous musty washcloth, minute clockwise whirlpool,
and whatever the water was missing.
Music was playing in another room,
unearthly music, and we assumed
we would become that loneliness.
And slowly we dressed, we sipped coffee,
we became the past, so did daylight,
the radio doled out news of massacres,
victory, surrender, truce,
a revolt crushed, breaking out again,
then that voice faded in the dim streets
where the steel-gated factory windows
blaze long after dawn.
We could freeze and thaw and melt each other,
petrify each other, make ourselves invisible,
inflate each other and retreat to the mind,
but we could not shrug, we could not amble
hand in hand down that path which slipped
through rye fields hemmed in by massive pines,
we could not warm a chestnut in our palms
to admire its flashing darkness, we could not
knock moss from stiles with a knobby stick
or enter the marriage house or read Genesis
under the shirred lampshade until the twilight
around us was impenetrable: we were absolute
and could not bargain, anymore than the thrush
singing its heart out in a sleeper’s mind.