Separation in the Form of Fall
Today the dead drop from trees
like husks of heavy chestnuts.
Every time one falls, it frees another
to split open. I am not afraid
to be alone. I hear rustling
in the leaves, down they fall
through the light that leads out
of their bodies. They bounce and I hear
footsteps on my wooden stairs.
Once, I caught a walnut’s loosening
and descent, watched it trickle and roll
through the leaves until it stopped
at my foot. I should’ve told you then,
should’ve cracked the husk open, placed it
on my tongue: husks are made for secrets.
I should’ve told you then.
We are always falling and splitting,
longing to free ourselves from those
we can no longer hold.
Fingertips that haven’t touched
strings all summer, the hands
instead busy making unfamiliar
cheekbones familiar, loosening
braids to take home
the scent of linden. Like
a hummingbird’s voice
hovering a lobe. Like tongue.
Like skin. His stroke
so holy it floats, this lingering
unafraid in the way
he hands everything back
to the world, so slowly as if
to erase the fact of taking
that is the world, the exchange
like a child’s sleeping body
lifted from a car’s backseat,
the small fist opened, draped
over a father’s arm, the comforter
pulled back on the small bed, the body
slipped in like the long ride home
still purring under the tires.
Wooded Road, Lake Superior
When we pass an opening, a keyhole
through which waves break and scatter
pebbles like rock candy slammed into rock,
he stops the car. Even I hear it calling.
It is a beautiful evening, the sun,
the horizon. Give me the keys,
I say, in case something happens, in case
his body, too supple for these waves,
all flesh and bone, a nymph of a body
scarred by old rebellion and blades, is swallowed
by these forces that command him to swim.
I know I cannot compete with nature.
He heeds the water, as we all will one day,
I say to myself, strolling the beach, praying—yes,
with him I have returned to prayer—give me
strength to leave him be. These waves, tortured
by their yearning to unhinge,
rap the bottom of cold, shipwrecked depths.
I’ve plunged and carried an ache for days.
He tosses his clothes. First feet and already
his body is thrown back. I hide calm
behind my camera, take a few pictures of him
inching into the lake, for the caretakers,
I think, should they need come—which will be me
on this stretch of land too far north for tourists
or towns. But stones and water hear as well as call.
They cut deep into his right foot. He will notice
the blood only when he changes
into his clothes and walks back, on second thought,
the wet sand sucking sunsets from his heel.