I am destined for success and have psychic abilities
and make friends easily. I should be an actress
or a movie star. I am well-balanced and outgoing
and nonjudgmental; my personal horoscope says so,
but you know what they say about her: although she claims
to be a virgin, some people say those twins are really hers;
that she had them that summer she was supposed to be
visiting her aunt at the lake. Her uncle Leo bought the place
for vacations, but they lost a lot of money investing
in a bull market and after he got cancer and couldn’t work,
it was cheaper to sell their split-level and live in that cabin
up north. I went up there a couple of times, back when
I was still friends with her. He was crazy about fishing—
there are still a couple of big muskie he caught, mounted
over the fireplace, and I was afraid to swim in deep water
because they looked so mean. He was into bowhunting
big-time, too, until one season he shot somebody’s goat,
which was sort of deer-colored, and did have little horns,
but the next year he shot their neighbor’s Holstein cow
and there wasn’t any excuse for that, so she made him
give up hunting. He had a big red pickup, a Dodge Ram,
just like that one parked under the tree over there.
He used to wash and wax it every Saturday. Look at
that guy carrying the big jug of water on his shoulder.
He must work for one of those artesian-spring companies—
wonder if he ever drops a bottle. My next-door neighbor’s
girlfriend’s roommate kept a scorpion in a glass bottle
like that. It glowed a pale green in the dark. She brought it
all the way from Los Alamos, and it got out one day
while she was at work and we never saw it again,
but sometimes I think I hear it late at night when I can’t
sleep and then a dim, luminous trail seems to flicker down
a wall and across the floor, like the tail of a falling star
shining through the roof to light a path I won’t follow.
The question is an over-rated form.
Cranes float, suspended from the highest
part of the sky. They are waiting for cake,
for large discounts, for something that will
make them let go of the zenith and fall,
something to make them die, laughing.
They used to know lots of good jokes,
but their memories are sealed, shuttered,
and slowly filling with brackish taints.
The bacteria swimming in their guts are
evolving into complex forms, snow-white
and eyeless, but it is taking a long time.
All of us can remember stuff from way back
that has mutated and lost its colorful details.
What we can’t remember is what dissolved,
paled into the muted shades of oblivion;
we are suspicious of what others remember
for us. The past is unpleasant fiction, a vast
plane contracting to a line, to a segment,
to a point of no return. Remember the cranes
floating at the beginning of this poem?
Were they towering birds or gracile machine?
You are the weapon that is buried
when peace blooms in the still dark air after a bloody war.
You are a vessel to redemption, embarking for Cythera.
Under full sail, translucent, crystalline, the ship sets its course
for the other side of the night sky.
Its mast coruscates with a nimbus of cold fire;
the huge linen sheets swell with a warm wind,
carrying the smell of rain from another country.
The wake trails phosphorescence, curling like kinked dreams
that glow and fade into a false dawn.
I am the egress, the escape, the Exit door,
between draperies of crumpled red satin.
I am the opening into another world.
I am the jagged horizon behind you,
just beyond your field of visions.
I am the questionable journey back into a past
that you will never quite be able to remember.
I lurk on the tip of your forebrain.
Bewildered in the maze of sleep where you chase my ghost,
you meet me where the hedge ends
as you turn over, pulling away the blankets.
You rise above dreams to crest a breaking wave.