Two, three—call it four decades on,
and I’m both better and worse.
I’ve settled into it
in the way that precedes disappearance,
as if I was placed in the back
of an otherwise empty cabinet,
sheltered by the presence of wood,
where I’ve become a study
in knowing something more
that you can only glimpse
in the repair of oily machinery,
or the bailing of water from a low spot on the land
where two surveyors once had a stare down.
I used to swear when the leather strap
on which everything momentarily hinged,
broke. I used to flinch and stumble backwards
and send the wooden stool flying.
Now I know when the whole thing buckles,
it means we’ve reconsidered.
Now I’m not going after it,
and it’s not coming after me.
We’re just both wounded with each other,
our needs infused in ways you can’t undo.
Each day is a landscape
painted with the mixed-up visions that spill out of us.
We work it from both sides, sifting.
The dawn is the signal that sets us out
into the sound of wings taking flight
and hooves dashing through leaves–
the spooked markers of our passage
into one another.
To get back to the beginning.
It’s a traverse we haven’t quite managed,
though sometimes we catch a glimpse
of one another on opposite horizons,
our shadows framed by fire–
all our beauty poised in an outcropping
that’s hung over the edge
with only one way in or out.
Unless you count disappearing.
I stop, looking up from
the collection of rusted hinges
I’ve spread out on a barrel head,
and there you are,
transfigured up on today’s holy heights,
while all around me
the unwieldy weights of silence
have paused to pay their respects.
The path through the field
matters more than ever now.
Every curve and stone has a name,
but not ones that I’ve given them–
rather, the ones they showed me,
ones that cannot be spoken.
They’re images that spontaneously reconstruct
to tug at my chest and limbs
when the sun and the clouds
are suddenly balanced inside the other.
Each image is the most meaningful excerpt
of history for that one being–
like the face of yours I saw once
at the bottom of a valley,
in a stream that laid flat
beneath a dull sky,
your eyes turned down,
your lips pursed–
the one moment I lifted
from a whole life of hoping
that no one saw because I turned away
just before the light came,
turned into this landscape we share,
the one I’m talking about here.
It was that one face,
held between us,
that gave sadness
a safe place to rest,
a low point in the field
where it could collect
into rippled reflections.
I’m both better and worse now,
but none of that really matters.
We get better and worse as we go.
It’s the meaning that has changed.
Each day is a landscape
of the visions that spilled out of our wounds,
and knowing time is only the distance between us,
I hike farther now than ever before
up into these canyons,
pushing the day to its limits before I buckle,
to find you,
and rest your head upon my knee,
and place water upon your lips,
so we can sink into nightfall
at the end,
when we disappear.