Today, I remembered a love poem with names of creeks
running perfectly to a river.
It is clear and cold as any and finishes with certainty.
It outlasts the pain of hope which grows inside unbearable words.
It opens and flows and holds for awhile the green tongues
of root and willow, and dead life from upstream, reliving itself.
It seems we have no trouble believing in the path it has cut.
Yet we lose faith in the shape of our metamorphosis.
We swim in the white swirls of rocks, an open flute that
echoes the artifacts of old joys, and we feel cold.
Let us instead be cold in the way that makes the sun brighter,
and in the manner you tell me, that I come to mind.
A thing gone is not always lost, and we may find it elsewhere
in order to love. We sing ruined worlds to rouse it,
or call for the stray dogs of old lives we left behind,
but we cannot. Today has no precedent.
This morning, a ghost walked past the frozen river,
into the sun through our window, as if slipping through ice.
Winter brings them in from the cold, like mice
and other beasts and into our dreams' misty rooms.
Because we are as much ghosts to them as they are to us,
they rouse in recognition and undiminished joy above white sheets
under which our two figures make love. There is no temptation —
the river is a snake I choose. I choose the sins that take me
to love and the animal fruit of your mouth, and your tongue,
like another snake, that wrestles me down into you.
The river is glass up to my ankles and I will fight you for this,
and not let you vanish as you leave behind this fallen world we made.
A fish that springs from netted air can breathe astonishment
under the sun of that heart.
You were warned, weren’t you —
warning signs on the wayside
the wrong side of the tracks.
But I lack the reserve,
the shoulda oughta, the damn
you to meddle and sallie more.
So, know what, gitchygoo,
I’ll kiss you. Consider it reprimand,
My tongue, the worksong, all the
angles covered, hoop d’loop.
“Bah!,” you say. Open wide, you’ll see
and say “ah.” Nah, you heard
wrong. “Hallelujah” — ’til hooray hits
holy high water. Yes, I confess the
fuss, ballyhoo and mess but,
buttercup, I’m game if it’s play
by play, if we can huddle and
hullabaloo. Yes, I know — suddenly
I’m sentimental, a beggar buggering
it up because it’s for tongues and for
cheeks, and rigamarole, or better,
Just to butter you up.