“Do Not Go Hand in Hand the Whole Stretch of the Way”*

Occasionally, we lick salt
and loneliness with the tongues
of forgotten owls. Our heads turn

to the rhythm of another
Virginia Woolf sentence before it flies
silently into the unmuted night.

Occasionally, we stretch our necks
to their breaking point,
the inevitable snap swallowed whole

by our incurable thirst.
Occasionally, we misunderstand
the howling in the distance.

Trees and their wounds, our anger
crowds branches, leaves a permanent mark. Occasionally, we still dream

of touching flannel to felt,
feather to bark, linen to polished
whale-bone, skin to roughed-up skin.

Rarely, we remove these
false faces long enough
to see how, occasionally,

the masks we wear
may protect our smiles
from disappearing altogether.

* Virginia Woolf, “On Being Ill,” The Moment and Other Essays

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