Getting on towards nine in the morning,
a Thursday. The new year
bobs outside my window; I've caught the fish
of a new day. Karyn's off to work.
I give over my coffee and shopworn sadness
to this room where both are forever most
at home, where clown's-feet slippers
stand out beneath my desk
waiting for the next corny bit of business
and sunlight won't look me straight in the face.
letters continue to arrive, with stamps
upon which one could picnic, from strange countries.
sit balancing coffee and sadness
as chattery morning gathers bright skirts around me.
In dark hoods of chest, you write, our hearts wait,
blood-red, unappeased, and violent sunsets
rock weeping in the arms of the sea.
gone to our separate corners,
old friend, the world has filled up with corners
of every sort, smaller all the while. Days led us
hand over hand along the line
not to mystery or new adventures, only to one dusk after another
hammily swirling it cape, bad bit players all.
Villages of roofs and days and children reared themselves
slowly about you. And I – I was abroad in the world,
footless and disloyal as the wind.
wind that strikes now, perhaps: a sharp report
as midway up the tree beyond my window
a limb cracks away, subsiding into another
on its way to ground. The second shears away as well
and they hang there, a logjam at the mouth of gravity's river.
Intently I listen, but this mouth has no more to tell me.
Morning catches its breath and goes on.
For a moment,
they say, the eyes fill with recognition.
Then the tongue begins to push its way out of the mouth
like a cork gone bad. Vessels of that larger vessel,
the body, empty themselves. Overrun by barbarians
whose throat-clearing language no one understands,
the city is in a sad state. Tomorrow, coming home
from work, you will no longer recognize it.
A wife and children who are not yours
will greet you at the door. It will all begin again.
poem was written in December 1999 in tribute to Jim Sallis' close friend