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Grief

I feel a dark undercurrent
of worlds scarcely intuited,
where a moment ago
night met all who were nearest me

and brought their breath
to the coastlands of the day
in waving grass, in shaking branches,
anchored me to their last smile and look,
married me to their silence.

I think I must be part of
a dream
spun in grief and fever by the night,
interpreted at the loneliest hour
by the sigh of breaking day.

My hand forgot to stroke
your head,
Was left suspended in the air,
Like a mute and frozen cry-
While like a small white boat
Swimming under my fingers
Came the dream of a child,
That could have been yours.

My lips
In all their sadness
And partial understanding,
Are strung with the bead of a smile,
To fool you,
Me
And God himself.

My eyes are covered with
autumn
Like birds’ nests left in the woods
Perhaps a single word,
A sound, gentle and thin
Could find the way back
To that lost summer.

But my hand,
Like a dried up branch,
Can blossom no more under your gaze.
A single moment
Stripped away its tenderness,
Like the wind an autumn tree
And left it to rock a far-off, lifeless dream.

My hand was left suspended
in the air,
In the middle of the road-
Wait no longer
My outspread fingers
Are swimming away with the dream.

Loving another, yet she married my
father.
That other portrait faded with the years.
From her album paged in musty velvet
Shimmered forth his paling, yellowing smile,

To watch her embroider a towel or tablecloth:
She pricked the vivid silk with her nostalgia.
The stitches flowed like narrow streams of blood.
The seams were silvered with her silent tears.

And my grandmother-how little I know of her life!-
Only her hands’ tremor, and the blue seam of her lips.
How can I imagine my grandfather’s love of her?
I can will myself to believe in her suffering.

No letter remains, no, not a scrap of paper
Did she will us; only pots in the attic
Crudely patched: tangible maimed witnesses
to a dead life: the young widow, the mother of five.

So she planted a luxuriant garden
That would embrace the newly barren house
And her new barrenness. So the trees grew,
Obedient to her will, in perfect rows.

Now my daughter is just sixteen
As I was on that quiet day in May
When I became pregnant of a single word
Scented with lilac, the remote song of a bird.

A few letters, and what is called “a slender volume”:
These are the relicts of my life. I lacked perspective
On happiness, so I ran ever faster
To escape the happy boundaries of my fate.

Listen, my daughter, never go in pursuit!
It all lies there, in the woven strands of blood.
How the straight trees whisper in the grandmother’s garden!
Only listen! These dim echoes in my poem…

But what can sixteen years conceive of sorrow?
And pensiveness? the tremor of old lives?
For her, only the eternal beginnings.
Where she goes, old shadows kiss her footprints.
Somewhere, in white lilac, the nightingale
Gasps out his fragile song

Which ends always with the note of eternal beginning.

You noticed a smile on my face,
And you measured my life out
In yards of blissful days
Which wait somewhere for me.

And only the brown earth heard
The quiet weeping of my steps,
When I left you.

And only the soft grass.
Which was trampled and crushed beneath my hesitating step
Felt
My heart flowing into
The high heels of my shoes

Binding them to the spot
In the silent hope,
That
You might call me back.

But the first tree on the edge of the road
Wise as a prophet from solitude and abandonment,
Bent to the earth by wind and storm,
Held ready for me
The cool outstretched cloth of shade
To hide the sadness in my eyes.

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