There Is a Country
I went back one day: sure enough,
the land was still there,
but it was not the same land;
the frost-lit sky was there, but
it was not the same air I breathed
& dreamed in long ago.
What the hell was I doing there?
Raggedy & haunted, my eyes
red-rimmed as a drunk’s.
What a damned fool I was.
I should have left the past alone.
It wasn’t, after all, the earth I wanted,
but that crazy step itself,
that sense of being always on the brink
of somewhere, anywhere, just then––
The darkness billows like a drape.
The candle gutters.
The cut glass dreams.
And this is all there will have been.
This & the labyrinthine
silences of the flesh.
The beauty of faces in the dusk.
And can you still dream of languages?
Do you imagine still
the outline of a friend?
Surely you know better.
And yet who among us
can survive dawn’s erasure?
You young wives & young mothers,
you’ll never know my enigmatic love.
You’ll never feel my eyes caress your shoulders
in the glow of dawn, or my sweet breath
ruffle the sheaves of your hair at dusk.
Only my voice may come from time to time,
unsettling your dreams like far-off music,
reminding you of someone long ago,
a boy you loved & would have married
had his longing not already stained his eyes
a certain blue like olive groves on the horizon,
depths of lapis veined with delphic gold.
Or was it your own longing, your own wound
that called you, even then, away from there,
& when he came to claim you, you were gone
& strangers standing at the gate?