In a college dorm, in a prison, in a marriage
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for my mother
A line of sparrows rises from the hedge
Like a simple declarative sentence.
You were alone then, without friends.
This morning I woke up in a cold house
And remembered. I have a few friends.
I have learned to live with one woman,
And finally, with your death. As if to make
Sense of it, I translate the short paragraphs
My breath writes in the cold. I listen
All night to the hum of a snowfall. Either
I loved you or I didn’t. I say it now,
But in a small room you waited for me once
And I didn’t come. I wonder what you heard,
The few words I hadn’t learned to say,
The mice gnawing on your hardwood coffin?
I don’t come in from the rain because
It isn’t raining. Still, the dampness
Of your voice on the telephone
Must have come from a darkened sky,
And there wasn’t time to shut the windows.
You’re wet, your hair smells of ozone.
I imagine you waiting for the clouds
To pass, seeing a different man
In each nimbus, in the closets, under the bed.
I put on my raincoat just in case.
You must understand
That love suffers this weather too.
The street steams like an iron
On a moist sheet. Anyway, the rain has started again.
This time it will last a month.
Hear it lisping against your windows, waiting
Just outside like a lover, patiently
Cultivating pure white mushrooms?
The crook of my arm
Repeats the chevron of geese overhead
Heading south. I wonder if winter has come yet
To those northern, spiritual lakes. Like them
I’m religious by association, and cold.
I don’t care if I have no more whiskey.
I remember those long afternoons we lay
In bed, speechless as fish under the ice.
I wanted to take off your clothes, simply.
Although the leaves are flying like a migration
Of rags, I’ve found a place to sleep. If
You’ve gone to bed and it’s late, turn on
The light, walk quickly across the floor
As if you heard me tap on the window.