Twelve poems from The World With Us In It
All day weve been waiting for the wind to come, the rain or snow to begin so we can stop waiting. All day Ive watched the boats come in, their riggings lashed against the wind. The outside stairs are swaying like grasses, wind filling the treads with air. I have my scissors, my tape, my handiness but it is difficult to remember how to do things. Soon this belly of mine, this cup, this bell will be full.
We have a fire in the grate all day, the sky a monochromatic pan to the cruise ship that has pulled into harbor for the day to be out of the wind. Hulking on the horizon that boat looks lonely out there. We werent on its agenda, I think, there have been no happy throngs of people pouring down the gangplank to look in the windows of our shops. There has been no sun, wind thrashing leaves from the trees as if to bypass fall altogether, cutting right from Technicolor to black and white without so much as a backward glance, a get-ready, a good-bye. Molly pulled the chairs off the deck while I went to the store for food, buying things that would fill our bellies and keep us drowsy and not anxious: beans for soup, collard greens, meat. All of a sudden the blue and red kayaks tied up outside look as if someone abandoned them here, the gulls floating backward on an updraft along the sullen beach. The papers today described soldiers who, two weeks into the current war, are already so weary of waiting to see what will happen theyd rather just get it over with and fight, which means they are ready to die. I listened to a writer last night speak of the importance of leading a dedicated life. I thought of her when I read about those soldiers, and I wondered if they knew what it was they were dedicating their lives to, righteousness or their own impatience, because they are young, and they cannot imagine a life made up of waiting. Adulthood, if there is such a state, seems to be organized around the acceptance that there are things we cant know: when will the people get off that boat and come ashore, and what will they bring with them, and will they stay.
Can you believe this? Life
I mean, velvet curtains
and beneath them scrim to let the sun in when it comes, trying to imagine
summer with our noses so cold, black ducks, eiders, buffleheads split at the
crown with white, snow at low tide, the sky far away now, dusk replacing
afternoon after we have spent the morning speaking our separate languages,
phonetic, pictographic, at a loss falling finally into bed, hands and mouth and
eyes transcribing one for the other after which it doesnt matter that we stood
separate again in our own countries, flags snapping at our heads. Agreement resides in the body, line of
stomach on white sheets, her clavicle mid-morning, one hand stroking my thigh
lightly as a woman sighing which I do each time she moves her hand, index
finger, middle finger, thumb the ritual listing reaching into the long
afternoon of snow.
. . .as if making love at the waters edge, the ghost a handful of sand sloughing us clean until I thought Id get pregnant for sure, not until much later remembering that what made this impossible was the fact that were both women. Oh, that. So what was the ghost there for, what was it trying to give us? What did it want from us, feeding on love, hungry for it.
I am in an old house, a mansion; I am wandering around in it trying to find my way. I come to an enormous kitchen with polished wood counters the size of a dance hall, a ballroom, and as I enter I notice that every drawer and cabinet is open, scores of them ajar at exactly the same distance and I think, This is the proof of ghosts people talk about wanting but never get. And Ive gotten it. And now I know. Walking past my own window, startled by my reflection in the glass this is me and this is me and this is me carrying a white blanket between rooms, scaring myself. For days my love and I dance through our own little house together, rubbing against one another like cats. Morning of fog, what is visible close as childhood, the voice of my mother rolling in on it like a specter though she lives, her breath sure on the other end of the phone, Did you get the package, the pearls I sent? Lifting now, the grey horizon separating itself from the water, same grey and not same, white stairs lifting away at their funny angle, my view, a jug of unseasonable tulips at the glass. Spent the day un-boxing my things, setting them in place, arguing with a friend about a woman we know whom she judges for being attached to her diamonds because they seem too meaningful to her. Whos to say what we love and why, I argued, say the diamonds were from a grandmother, haunted by war and surviving in the gift of a ring to her child, surely this would be something different. To which my friend replied, But theyre not. Hard the way my friend can be hard, and shiny even on days without sun. I am waiting for the pearls my mother has sent, the fog everywhere. I am beginning to love my house. Is there evil in the world, I dont know. What are the ghosts here for, are they benevolent, no, they are neutral, bumping up against us, as we inhabit, more deeply, this house. You know, I said, Im just tired of judging what people love; that they do at all seems like enough for now. Youve got a point, my friend said.
The trawler has slipped into the fog as if injected, as our friends described their insemination How athletic, to conceive a child that way, I thought, the fog is sexual, not clinical, and if she could just once god make me pregnant, just once the child I want floating toward us like that boat out there visible on the horizon but further away than we imagined.
Every few days we find another bird dead in the wrack, neck broken in the waves, an eiders breast flashing white in the glare, a gulls spanned wing arrayed to show how majestic it really is. Was. Wind! Molly said, If I could punch the wind, I would. I dream of people I used to know and walk my dog when I get up. Leaving the house is like pushing against will. The part of our beach with no building on it receives the brunt of the tides wash, as if the petulance of the human world cannot bear to let it sit empty: tires, bottles, timber, sails, fishnets, buoys, shoes. That spot drives my poor dog wild as the men who sleep their drunks off curled in overturned dinghies beneath the town pier. The pier itself will not stand in such a wind.
What had seemed infinite feels limited now; though I cannot yet see the end of the line I can feel it coming, the way midway through a long train ride one feels the destination though the car has yet to slow. So history appeared in my dream last night, a thousand birds and whales along the shore so thick you can walk across their backs, something I heard about this bay when the first white people came, though I believe they were referring to cod then. I woke up thinking, Its the future now, there outside my window, boats still at it but less fruitful in their trawling.
I was wandering a house again, this one vast with enormous rooms full of elaborate beds and huge, tiled bathrooms. I was new to the house but I lived there, perched on a rocky promontory above the ocean in which throngs of sea animals tossed in the waves: seals, dolphins, killer whales. A dream of riches, but I couldnt tell if they were mine or not.
Molly passes her hand across her face to erase whatever dreams have been deposited there. Mostly she doesnt remember, letting my chatter fill the space in which she might be able to, my life with her like a flower that seems exotic in the field but turns out to have been growing there all along: poppy, lupine, mallow. When she turns to me, so be it, Im happy.