I thither went
With unexperienc’d thought . . . to look into the clear
Smooth lake, that to me seem’d another sky.
—Paradise Lost, Book IV
They’d shifted— where the floor used to be
by pew legs, kneeler feet,
now were strokes of deep red plush, virgin
pile exposed in patterns
like pictographs I read over
and again but did not
of light, all symbols.
everywhere else, the ground was bland, stained
almost white by sun
until my child-eyes saw a vivid line
angled through threadholes
in the window blinds, a rainbow
on dusty plush not sky, laying
itself out: a set of watercolors:
bright and straight and dry.
I didn’t wear a watch that week. I measured
time by shadow and didn’t measure
when the sun went down. I caught you writing
on my arm with your finger. My name
is simpler in your language, traced lightly
by your left hand. It seems strange I did not know before
which hand you use to write. When the man blessed us
in Jerusalem we held out opposite wrists
for the red string. Now we are a mirror.
We understand everything we say
except the names of fruit. I’d never eaten אפרסמון
so we looked it up— persimmon,
the lotus of Odysseus. You showed me how to hold it,
see if it gives, ripe. Every second slice
was mine, the flesh shining, shot through
with fibers, tasting like the moon.
You taught me home: בית.
When the sun was down, I measured in fruit
and wrote with shadows. Now my name grows
long again. The hands of my watch are moving.
That was a good bar, that was our bar,
now it’s closed and we have matchbooks
we never light and stories we only tell
each other-- is this how it
starts? Waking up, feeling
nothing in particular? Turning
the seams of our lampshades
to face the wall? I seem comfortable here
and maybe I am. I lent you a scarf I lent
you money I lent you my shoes that night
and I want nothing back. No: I want
your arms sometimes and seeing a note
I left you a year ago
on your fridge yesterday. Love is not
a crux. It’s a smudged glass on the table, a fur coat
I put on four times, a sheet set worn smoother than air.
You’ll maybe move somewhere far away, I’ll maybe
move somewhere far away, just let me
buy us a drink before you go. That way you look
up from the table at me
for the tiniest amount of time
then away and finish what it was you’re saying