Look, it doesn't appear—it seems to not be—we don't think it's
going very well. If the soul is a whorled coil, a cochlear shape
in the center of the abdomen, a blue-green curl somewhere
behind the bile duct, then all is well; but otherwise we feel
some concern that you have not got this more under control—
you needed to something, is our consensus, and failed to do it.
To lean over the edge of the pink sofa arm quick and give her
a stubbled cheek kiss, does such a gesture really pull the soul back
into the body after all her months away? Especially with this cold
rain, days of it, and no warmed adobe walls to draw her home?
When she can't feel her feet. When she can't even see the moon.
That, contrary to Californians and Klonopin, joy should be fugitive
after a certain age. That anyone's chest would froth with corrosive
bitterness, black and flaked like the oil pan from an old pickup truck.
Cups of tea aren't doing it. Or moping around the house holding
a tiny Kwan Yin figurine curled in your palm like a roll of quarters
in case you need to punch someone. We know how dumb it hurts.
We know you wake every morning in a state of lack, we are well
aware that before your eyes even open you feel insufficient all the way
to the brainstem. We know you've been running on fumes & charm
for perhaps a decade. It is what it is, to have failed her. And we want
to tell you: it's not so much that she needs to listen to the gods, it's that
you'd better make her talk back. These same mornings, a plain line
of sun glances toward the beds, makes translucent the pretty lettuces.
Tell her about this, urgently; don't just remind her about the time
you accidentally drove into Wales, and everything was greener
than green could have been, with bright red phone boxes in another
language—but promise you'll take her back there. Make claims
you can't support, agreements or liaisons impossible to keep.
A soul wants hope. A soul clambers down striped slits of light
through thin clouds in order to believe herself needed here.
Undivorce, repatriate, reconcile, solicit. Stock up on syntax
and semiotic coin, monger her loyalty with words if you have to.
Her warm skin can candle yours again. Her breath, her breast.
Inside your body lit up like rupestral figures on stone, granitic
thighs and spears, the pulse of running beasts. You can do this.
This piece developed over a winter break when I'd just finished my former colleague Jon Davis's stunning book of poems, Preliminary Report (Copper Canyon, 2011). I read the whole book in a single sitting, and wondered dolefully if I would ever be able to write anything in such a strongly vatic, oracular voice. I went outside and ate a tangerine in the cold sun, and tried.