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Postscript: To Missy Walker


as well there is
a song of swans
surrounds me &
of darkness a
developing edge
in the plotless
wild ravening
of swans are you
out there weird
trill I sing
toward are you
out there outline
of dying my
torso traces the
harmonics of there
are nights that
carve my voice
to froths of
absolution I
admit I've asked
each night to
sing since the
first night &
in the grid of
your not granting
I hear such
silence as fills
forgiveness what
does it mean
to abandon a
feeling in the constant
sound of time to
wake in blue
clusters of hours
without moving
to give up
control of
desire as you
might give up
control of a car
on the bridge one
night I am
walking out let's
say for infant
tylenol from
the Family Dollar
& in my skin
a caustic like
I've become
a graft of
someone else's
sensation onto
the surface of
this instant's
absolving song
& how could I
have let it
come to this
I am let's say
in need of
the flagrant
far-flung rage of
swans condensed &
welling up
to contradict
this dark
it's there
between desire
& devastation an
alien signal awake
in the story's
alternating current
beyond who
am I how did I
get here what
could it mean to
walk beside any
particular
other absorbing
the city's chemical
dose & call
this constantly
brimming we are
what poetry's
for it's stupid
to act that
way who could
be so easily
fooled “I forget
what the only
sin is” says
Eileen Myles but
surely it must
be to harbor
trust in the world
when desire in
the body of
the world exists
for what who
cares for love
or music or
annihilation &
once it exists
to silence it is
the richest
absence of hour
in which there is
no event
but waiting
this
stasis is if
anything is
divine it is
what keeps me
alive in the
tide of each
hour believing
the edge of
night emerging
in me is the thrust
into tomorrow
that never
sings & this
is one of the
stories about the
body that never
thereafter
shifts & must be
forgiven so this
is the moment
when someone
makes me confess
that fundamentally
I have no faith
in the world this is
the moment when
I'm forced to
admit that “I
swim in the silent
events of my
skin” without
resistance but
Cassie has asked
for a story beyond
desire & devastation
she's asked for
a story about
a shift in human
behavior of which
there's just one
I know
a woman for
many years has
lived inside
the insistency of
a pattern with
her lovers it
brings her tremendous
pain to recognize
after several
months or years
of integrating her
life with each
lover's the pattern
imprinting itself
irrevocably once
again her lover is
in every case a
sensitive & brilliant
but emotionally
damaged man who
has been seeking
for many years
a woman to
wrap his life
around & she
imagines she will
guide him beyond
his troubles into
a realized
personality which
includes her &
she does so but
each time she finds
just when her
desires appear
in this manner
justified they
awaken in somebody
new somebody
much like her
lover used to
be & so it
goes until broken
momentarily
free of the diagram
enclosing her
story she visits
an old friend
for the weekend
& falls unexpectedly
but entirely
in love she
knows at once this
love is not like
the others knows
that the pattern has
unstitched itself
from her heart & so
she marries
her friend & so
emerges into
a calm that
does not even
shake at the
edges at night
not one bit & to
the maintenance
of this calm she
devotes herself
completely for
awhile everything
is & seems to be
a form she can
learn to furnish
differently for
different visitors
& in the hymn
projecting from
total direction into
each lived instant
she waits
tilting subtly
forward from the
edge of a cushion
as though about to
reach into the room
& lift a mug of
coffee that isn't
there if later she
gives birth to
a child if later
she returns to
school to complete
her dissertation no one
will have noted
this drift while it
occurred or whether
in the effortless
current that filters
time outside of
time from the
line of difference
events accrete
along she has
discerned that this
is not the shift
the story is
about some years
pass before
one day in the
pick-up line for
daycare or out
to coffee she
falls in love a
final time
& hopelessly
with a man much
younger than
her who by
an incidental
gesture reveals
his heart as the
absent half of
her own a mirror
to what of her
was somewhere
asleep in the steady
incantation of songs
& afternoons her life
is thrown into
crisis she can't
complete ordinary
motions can't hold
a colander steady
start the car
sing her child
to sleep & yet
her nights & days
incompletely but
her love for her
husband entirely
remain intact this
is the unattached
root of a profound
confusion stretching
each afternoon
toward clarity
which she accepts
into the calm of her
formal parlor but
at night while her
child & husband
sleep she walks
out into the city
along a circuit of
ever-widening &
more unwieldy
loops which
she begins to
believe would
chart if viewed
from above a
plot from which
she could not
escape a
graph of the
ventricles &
veins wrapped
around & entering
into her heart
as the image
takes hold she
walks past shops
& restaurants &
lines of cars
parked diagonally
on silent arterial
streets consumed
by the thought
of color lines
tracing her path
each night an
ephemeral map
of contrasts are
you out there
you hey
you
she imagines each
night's turning
point to be
a kind of
station like
the circles that
mark the stops
on a subway map
a station or
terminus that
tethers the reds &
lavenders of her
route & at each
she would like
to leave
a remnant a
token some
haphazard shrine
anyone passing
would not remark
upon a playing
card say with
someone's name
across the back
or a foreign coin
fastened with
transparent tape
to a signpost as
soon as she begins
to leave these
shrines indeed she
discovers she
believes other
shrines abandoned
in apparent reply
& sometimes
preceding her own
so that she
no longer is sure
whether the project
originated in
her asking after
her conjured
lover or whether
she was the
respondent to
someone else's
asking surely
his & here
she feels the plot
dissolving she
perceives that
there's both no
hope & no
purpose in
carrying the
project any
further when
already the idea
of response fills
her waiting with
almost unbearable
depth & just then
looking up she
finds she has
walked much
further from home
than she'd thought
she has entered
a district of the
city that is unfamiliar
to her & she will
not be able she
knows to return
by dawn & not
even attempting to
untangle the trace
of her direction she
walks until reaching
a playground or
bus transfer
station or construction
site she places
the last of her
shrines &
lies down
to sleep
she has
this dream
she is seated
at an outdoor
table on a cold
day she is dressed
in a warm gray
overcoat & red
scarf she is
waiting for a
friend when
her daughter
appears in the
seat across from
her & though she
herself has not
aged her daughter
is fully grown
she is happy
to see her &
clasps her hands
across the table
“insofar as we
exist” she
says “we exist
in others our
condition is only
desire & in it
we wait or we
wait & forgive
the waiting & in
forgiveness find
our waiting has
split in two” she
drops her daughter's
hands “all experience”
she continues “is
change & this
condition
demands endless
forgiveness I've
wished I was
an addict so as
to more meaningfully
forgive addiction
but there are yes
there are limits
to love I've wished
I was a christian
so as to feel the
absolute relief
of forgiveness
flood my being but
forgiveness is not
as in the church
contingent
forgiveness is total
& precedes any
need for it
like the self it is
plotless & arrives
charged with refusal”
as she speaks she
watches herself
speak & feels herself
diminishing toward
sleep's essential
relinquishment but
she says “there are
instants that shake
at all times within
this waiting & it's
preposterous to
tell you this but
in these instants I exist
completely & yes
I've wished to
emerge into them
into a lifetime
of this” & she flips
the hood of her
coat up so it
frames her face
& she smiles
the clarity of
her expression
startles her &
she wakes
it is midday &
warm the weather
has shifted the
preceding night's
chill has dissolved
discerning that she
is mere blocks
from the university
she walks the rest
of the distance
perplexed as to how
she could last night
have perceived
herself as lost
the motion of
the story is
inexorable
from here there
is little need
for elaboration
at the university
she meets the man
who has split
unwittingly her
existence in two
he asks of course
to speak for a
minute with her it's
impossible he
says with reference
to her husband &
child but he's
deeply perhaps
indecently in love
with her & though
she's anticipated
this moment like
she's anticipated
each potential
encounter with him
she is nevertheless
overwhelmed
& for a few
moments she
cannot reply
then she asks
will he come with
her for a walk
& he agrees
she describes
at length
her desire for
him & how this
desire while
secret has come
to seem welcome
to her even
necessary but that
in order for this
to be true all must
remain as it is
already that he
must live hereafter
quietly for her &
she for him & that
though she knows
this will make
of their lives a
kind of ruin she
hopes they both
can find in the
endlessness of
that ruin the true
& total richness
of existence &
having said so
she turns
& kisses him
gently once
on the mouth &
then she turns
again & walks
to her home
Cassie
Missy this
patience is
life essentially
it trembles there
like the swan's
implacable anger
it makes a sort
of tremolo of
the air the force
of which drives
song down
under the
soil but it
can't be
forgiven our
bones were not
given to us
to hold the
bitter surplus
of that music
what then
is the price
what then is
the price you're
willing to pay
because death
also is a kind of
surplus the dead
take so much
so much grain so
much lace so much
nautical rope they
keep paint in jars
they take shirts
down from shelves
they take books they
take words out of
speech we're left
parsed & so
sing can't they
leave us a
song do they
need all the
songs but the
music remaining's
a rasp that won't
sleep in my
mouth full of
weather & distance
& blossoming
murderous
blood that
surges with
shattering pale
inconsolable
desire this
cold night of
tenderly walking
down long clear
streets named
for generals & I
know we are not
each other's
medicine or
anything sparing
the body I
know we are not
anything left
to rely on I
don't know what
medicine's for
that doesn't come
broken from
the body
broken & not
flush with
whatever the
body holds
that requires
forgiving & as
for forgiveness
in fact you're
forgiven you're
all forgiven I am
obliterated by
the darkness &
the quiet & the
fear in each
of you that is
a mirror of
you in me
& ensures you'll
never be the
next to die
before me from
this instant
spilling out
into night
forgiveness is
a geometric
phrase that
forms a network
vibrant around
what light
remains
between us
that is a shifting
center we turn
toward tune
toward who
leads me who
leads me
now streets
empty as a
boot distant
headwater coming
somewhere blue
as nothing I can
hold outside
division
common factor
of a tissue
thin as grief
you now double
approaching
communion of
seed of soil &
given this
light & the
velocity of
its rinse we
live I lose
I live through
love I give
by love I
have so
much to
give so
much &
giving
love so
much I
have so
much so
much I
have such
love I
have so
much I
have such
love to
give