Oh, I Remember You

You've snuck around here before,
dangling inside the word forget like a tiny bell
on a leash.

Swaying inside our darkness
you noiseless bat.

Begging me to neglect you.

Oh, I remember
you said it will be okay, like you could know
and like I asked you and like it would be.

Well. The heart is like a mirror,
it can only be broken once.

I'm not mad.

If love was meant to be bloodless
then why would we have
knuckles to grind

and lips to chew on?
I never asked you to go easy on me.

Really.  Show me true anguish, yours,
and I will show you mine.  

Winks.

So we glue the mirror back together
and it still reflects, but so distorted.

Anyone can love a demented thing
if it is done just right.
If it is just done right.

I can't help the way I am. 

If only you
had a sickly half-heart like mine, you would understand.
This is my weak attempt at telling the truth--
     I usually just watch you stumble around
     and feel your way through the dim corridor.

Are you starting to understand?

My heart is like a mirror,
it will show you who you really are.

I have always chosen a severe life
even when I said I wouldn't.
I was resolute. I was brave. But I still never figured it out:
              how to  behave, how to be tender,
         how to be selfless, how to start over.
I opened the book on my lap,
but only sat there crying. It is hard
to be your own terrorist.

Really who doesn't want to be remembered
as better than we are?
Every day I have allowed you
to overemphasize my gentleness.
This is when I have been most selfish.

Who can blame me? You said hello so nicely
that I didn't sense any interpersonal boundaries.

For once, I did not have to be gracious.
I did not have to starve myself for days
or defy my impulses.

No, for once I let the desperate animal
in my bones devour what it craved most.
Yes, I remember
you.

After You

The summer slipped away again,
washed away in heavy rain,
turning itself over to a burnt October

The pear trees slowly slumped beneath
the balmy weight of southern sky
and finally they bore their swollen fruit

Now the mild autumn days roll by calmly,
slow as summer thunder.
This house is very quiet.

Outside the world keeps blooming into auburn color,
flooding through the kitchen windows
where I am baking bread or reading novels

Even the bees drift lazily among the fallen pears
fermenting in the sun.  I watch them start to fly
then float back down to the sugar-bruised fruit

Surely nothing is more silent
than steam escaping hot bread broken
alone, than black tea going cold. 

Salt

Libraries, for example, are good places
to escape the viciousness of people
when they try to get

inside of you.

Between the shelves
there is plenty of space
to lick your wounds.

This is something I do often.

My first twenty years weren’t easy
I was always busy
with the important occupation

of dismantling myself—an exhausting
and ungrateful enterprise.
I did this so earnestly that I was, in fact,
convinced 

I had invented the vocation.

I just kept carving
and carving.

Did I ever succeed? in scraping clean
the rind.  in turning myself
inside-out.  What is left?
after such a thorough cauterization.

One raw little soul.

I can still taste that grief
in my mouth like champagne, icy
& no hint of sweetness.

I could have stayed inside all day.

Meanwhile on the quad, a pretty girl
walks her small white dog
across the grass & shadows
sprawl across the perfect lawn

with their splotchy memory.
Although memory, I am learning,
always give back much more color
than what was there in the first place.

I look back now, and I want to feel 
that grass 
on my skin.  But all I can remember
is that I hated my life

and I hated my life.

The feeling comes
and goes, but at least I find
a quiet absolution in my landscape:
the restfulness of books
and sunlight in an empty room
that transforms the isolation
into something else entirely.

Dear Astrid

Loneliness is the human condition.
Cultivate it. The way it tunnels into you
allows your soul room to grow.

Never expect to outgrow loneliness.
Never hope to find people who will understand you,
someone to fill that space.  An intelligent, sensitive person
is the exception,
the very great exception.

If you expect to find someone who will understand you,
you will grow murderous
with disappointment.
The best you'll ever do is to understand yourself,
know what it is that you want,
and not let the cattle get in the way.

Moo.

Image

Excerpt adapted from White Oleander, by Janet Fitch.