16 February 2014

Shining even to the closed eye

                             by Tess Gallagher


I don't know now if it was kindness -- we do
and we do. But I wanted you with me
that day in the cool raspberry vines, before
I had loved anyone, when another girl and I
saw the owner's son coming to lift away
our heaped flats of berries. His white shirt outside his jeans so
tempting. That whiteness, that quick side-glance
in our direction. So we said nothing,
but quickly gathered all the berries we could, losing
some in our mirth and trampling them
like two black ponies who only want to keep their backs
free, who only want to be shaken with
the black night-in-day murmur of hemlocks
high above. our slim waists, our buds
of breasts and red stain of raspberries cheapening
our lips. We were sudden, we were
two blurred dancers who didn't need paradise. his shirt,
his white shirt when the pelting ended, as if
we had kissed him until his own blood
opened. So we refused every plea and
were satisfied. And you didn't touch me then, just
listened to the cool silence after. Inside,
the ripe hidden berries as we took up our wicker baskets
and lost our hands past the wrists
in the trellised vines. Just girls with the arms of
their sweaters twisted across their hips
in mottled sunlight, that girl you can almost
remember now as she leans into the vine,
following with pure unanswerable desire, a boy
going into the house to change his shirt.


He always liked to pour his darkness into
his light. The stupor of my moonbeam there too, its
hapless funneling
in the night-thickened house.

Then my childhood friend
who's been staying awake for me, left the house
so I could be alone with the powerful raft of his body,
that entryway.

I talked to him, told him things I needed to hear myself
tell him, and he listened, I can say "peacefully,"
thought maybe it was only an effect he had, the body's surety
when it becomes one muscle. Still, I believe I heard
my own voice then, as he might have heard it, eagerly
like the nostrils of any mare blowing softly over
the damp presence he was, telling it
all is safe here, all is calm and yet to be
endured here where you are gone from.

Since his feet were still there and my hands
I rubbed his feet, because it is hard to imagine
at first that the dead don't enjoy those same things
they did when alive. And even if it was only a last thing, it
was the right last thing.

What is forever beyond speech
pulls action out of us, and if it is only childlike and
unreceived, the way a child hums to the stick
it is using to scratch houses into the dirt, it is a silky
membrane and shining even to
the closed eye.

Tess Gallagher, Nine Poems, The American Poetry Review, January/February 1992.

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