I swear it’s easier to give in than fight,
this petty pathos
of a night,
of a night,
This sifting of shapes
to re-define the whole.
In a year, repetition becomes rule,
hordes of splintered branches crowd-out
an ordered hemisphere—isn’t pruning a sort of
evening of scores, a trimming of the bush
to suit yourself? What luck to be discerning in the smear!
You dissolve options in the strongest light,
cast out malingering memories
to save the best, the few that endure
without actually having to hold,
spindle, mutilate, or fold.
And isn’t this the truth? This has happened before?
You have snuffled through revised
billets doux never sent to imaginary lovers;
you have tortured yourself, remembering faces
on photos of now unknown, half-grown, anonymous
children of missing friends. You have donned
paper-clips doing grand, misshapen arabesques,
surrounded them with stiffening rubber-bands
lazing unused in backs of seemingly lengthened drawers.
A sullen jewelry—a cut-and-paste art,
and yet it re-occurs. You abate the end
with these weary dress-ups,
wear mediocre bangles for a small afternoon,
you dance to dime-store recollections
that momentarily warm cold feet.
And here the ceremony takes a reckless turn.
You commit these last receipts to your hand-built pyre,
days and eves like paper butterflies,
wither like hollow-cheeked apple cobs.
You curse. You wittingly close doors and twist knobs.
You watch, glued to the fire.
But unlike the nonflammable weeks of lost thought,
the little accoutrements burn. Dreams char up a storm.
You view a stove as another carbon-coated orifice of time.
Your hot mouth is an incinerator,
winter winds flout your flue,
stifling arrangements with soot,
stirring remnants of things
you wanted to postpone, sloughing for another year—
a few lingering words,
sweet vowels born of nobility and assigned to air,
something real that floated over
to touch you once with care,
innumerable golden rings.
The fire’s bright reminds you of a dark fact:
You are a compendium of must,
an accumulation that dwindles ‘til it’s done.
And wish for wish, ash for ash
you swear you don’t
or won’t allow yourself
to miss a single one.
c. 1972, Whidbey Island