A straight rain is rare and doors have suspicionsand I hold that names begin historiesand that the last century was a cruel one. I am pretendingto be a truck in Mexico. I am a woman with a long neck and a good burdenand I waddle efficiently. Activity never sleeps and no tale of crumbling cliffscan be a short one. I have to shift weight favorably. Happinesscan’t be settled. I brush my left knee twice, my right once,my left twice again and in that way advance. The alphabetand the cello can represent horses but I can only pretendto be a dog slurping pudding. After the 55 minutes it takes to finishmy legs tremble. All is forgiven. Yesterday is going the way of tomorrowindirectly and the heat of the sun is inadequate at this depth. I seethe moon. The verbs ought and can lack infinity and somewherebetween 1957 when the heat of the dry sun naughtily struck meand now when my secrets combine in the new order of cold rainsand night winds a lot has happened. Long phrasesare made up of short phrases that bear everything “in vain” or “allin fun” “for your sake” and “step by step” precisely. I too can spring.
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon’s gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are.
Our high school principal wagged his finger
over two manila folders
lying on his desk, labeled with our names—
my boyfriend and me—
called to his office for skipping school.
The day before, we ditched Latin and world history
to chase shadows of clouds on a motorcycle.
We roared down rolling asphalt roads
through the Missouri River bottoms
beyond town, our heads emptied
of review tests and future plans.
We stopped on a dirt lane to hear
a meadowlark’s liquid song, smell
heart-break blossom of wild plum.
Beyond leaning fence posts and barbwire,
a tractor drew straight lines across the field
unfurling its cape of blackbirds.
Now forty years after that geography lesson
in spring, I remember the principal’s words.
How right he was in saying:
This will be part of
your permanent record.