Rivers are larger than creeks are larger than
brooks are larger than runs. The man
you couldn’t get to that unnamed European airport
in time with is not the same man
you loved twenty years ago who would never sing
in front of an audience in a greenhouse. Or anywhere.
That was just a dream. Wouldn’t sing for anyone—not even you,
his precious cargo. He is not the same
man you wish would come out and play again. He would sing
for anyone—everyone. Would rather not
say a word when the music stops. He is not the same
man who wrote you a letter—one. Called you
on the phone—once. Meet me in the City. You could be
still waiting for him outside the bow of the Flat
Iron Building. But he’s not the same. Neither are you.
“Let’s put our heads together, start a new country up.
Underneath the river bed, we burned the river down.
This is where they walked, swam, hunted, danced, and sang.
Take a picture here, take a souvenir. Cuyahoga. Cuyahoga, gone.”
—from the song “Cuyahoga,” by Berry/Buck/Mills/Stipe (REM)
Back in ’88 the hottest heat
wave to hit parts known only to me
for those it was so cold
stories. Post-modern infill spills
onto Old Main Street. The big river never looked
so sad. I would not wade across it
for decades. Just not ready to embrace
that middle seam going all the way up. I didn’t know
the young, crooked one would boomerang
back into my life. I would grow
into the bridge between those two
that would never meet outside
my heart before it became a souvenir.
My criminal act concealed
for now we roam beneath bare
branches. Follow the river down
for a radical blossoming
before another cyclone wrecked
hillside. Sneezes for no reason—
there’s never a reason
to be so coy. Forgiveness begins
at the head of the falls.
Pathos or a compulsion
to turn everything outside
into me. I want to steal your pain—
it’s a lie. I cannot feel
the flare-ups erupting
inside your muscles, joints, trust. Only
a greedy desire to conceal
my own fear inside walls
of an ancient cave
I’ll never enter. Not to see the primitive
finger flutings overhead—I become entangled
in this grotesque silence.
This addiction to nothing is not
the same as an addiction
to air. Living off
coffee and apples
without sleep or shade
is another one. Close
the mouth for good. Lockjaw love
won’t sustain me—nor will you.
He said she said
there would be no more
words running loose
down paved streets. Potholes
in the sky
over Wisconsin wreck her
concentration as she flies
into the silence
of colors and shapes
ready to be made.
Let the cantillation begin.
Not the way to start a day. Full frontal
male nudity on the screen
last night left her
cold. She would be so lucky to have him
appear in her dreams—
and yet. Just show a little ankle, a bare
forearm, the back
of his thigh. No more holding it in—time
to wash her hair.
Bucked on her own bicycle
through Central Park in the rain. Blue
Man Group was still blue
babies recovering from that original choke
without tubes. Never knowing
the price of gas anywhere. She could no more
identify the car you drive than you could
label her a type of flower that grows through cracks
in the sidewalk. Could be any day—she chooses
to call this one her station.
These immobilization fees
don’t cover what she does
with her left wrist. Flicks serifs
off letters the way she used to release
ashes from her smokes, the way
I might dismiss her
without understanding what she might be
building in that empty lot. April snow lasts
only so long—then she’ll write this off too.
Her nervous system’s high
whine, his circulating blood a low
hum, their silence won’t come
the way they imagined
under these rafters at dawn. This return
to audible reality—a compulsion
to let the breath be known—weighs
on her as she steps off the back
porch. Onto pavers seeping
mud, her feet adjust to the sway. The rain
did not stop, but that wasn’t it.
Her disappearance completes
the arc of narrative
in light better than words.