methow grist 2011-2014 archive

Conjugating the Verb To Be

In the end,
We couldn’t beat the physics –
Two tops,
Spinning in the same frame
Daring to draw close,
Then propelled apart
By some centrifugal principle
Inserted like an epoxy
Deep in the plastic of childhood.

I have to go to Michigan, she said.
My father’s dying.
You told me your father was dead,
I said.
That was temporary, she said.
This time it’s permanent.

I wanted to go with her,
Wanted to be the one
To steady her
As those familiar waters
Pressed against a lifetime
Of makeshift levies.
I’ll come with you,
I said.
No, she said too quickly.
If I decide to gouge out his eyes,
You’d try to stop me.

I should have just held her,
But the certainty of her rejection
Blinded me,
Left me flailing for her.
Where the child is torn,
The woman makes whole,
I said,
Saying out loud
For the first time
Those words
She had extracted 
From ashes
And mailed to me
When she had finally decided
We could live together.
Her words, then,
Were as pure as prayer.
I had pelted her
With forgeries.

Airports are joyless places anyway.
They breathe in
The comings and goings
Of our small catastrophes
And exhale indifference –
The voice on the PA system,
The monotony of baggage,
The flattened noise,
The unwavering whiteness of light –
In spite of the end of some worlds
And the beginning of others,
These never change. 
And in the center
Of this dead sea,
I stood on the bridge
We had so carefully constructed
Of a thousand small stones,
Now crumbling,
Tumbling with me
Into a darkness 
I could feel,
Emptied of everything
But gravity.
This is it, I thought,
This is the last I see of her,
Eurydice struggling towards the surface,
Leaving behind a faithless Orpheus.

But we carry on,
Each to our own rhythm of loss.
I keep a picture of her
Taken at the rocks
Of Canon Beach
Just as the early blanket of gray
To the brief dusting of dawn.
The neap tide had pulled
Well beyond us,
Leaving the beach bare
But for the bits of creatures
Scavenged by gulls.
I caught her smile,
Bright in the dull light,
Just after she realized that
She had never been
So close to Japan.
The present tense
Can do that to you.

This is the title poem from David Asia’s online collection, ‘ Conjugating the Verb To Be: The Poetry of Time and Place’


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