Sitting Alone at Night, Thinking of Old Promises
At night by the river
I see you fling your arms up into the sky,
the moon visible between them.
There are no roots growing from your feet,
you float away.
The limb of a flowering tree comes down over a
high brick wall,
the tip of a branch rests
like the prow of a ship on water,
and sails on so slowly that in the morning when birds wake up
in the garden,
an old sea captain standing on deck
far out at sea
turns his head
as though he heard them singing.
White drops of water
glisten on the mast and on the bright deck,
he lifts his dead wife up
into the meadows of his heart,
as one day the flattened grass
slowly lifted the shape of her body
into the air.
He is like a young man again,
"Summer has come by like a ship of blossoms,
and if you call my name, I will
meet you–as I promised–
in the tall windows of the rose,
and hold you there, forever."
On this side of the mountains, I found you,
and soon go back.
Tonight, shadows ripple over the coals,
and in me, your gift,
I hear a song I have placed my lips upon
for you alone.
I bring this old harp,
I unclothe it for you.
Over the mountains
ripening fields of wheat stand and wait,
and I have seen in you, suddenly,
your moon, your darkness,
and the sacrament they make together.
Because of your beautiful body,
and because you step
reluctantly into your nakedness,
I go like a white shadow
drifting through your darkness.
You are not alone,
and I have two hands.
I have made a home for you in my hands.
In one, a song.
In the other, someone far away
lies down and sees in mountain passes
a blue flower
lifting its green arms out of the snow.
"I will leave you to go there, but
not before I plant in your heart
the jewel of this night between us."
–both poems from Ish River,
collected in POEMS FROM ISH RIVER COUNTRY