HOW TO SEE
Witness all the movements of leaving,
how the body gives itself away.
Witness the breath of hunger,
how fingers tremble in search.
Witness the avalanche of return,
tumbling desire and restless motion.
The first thing to do is to open your eyes.
Witness water coming in from the window.
Witness water swallow itself,
that cannibal tide and wave after wave.
Witness death on the small scale,
worms on the sidewalk after the rain.
Seek out heat from the fire,
embers going upwards and the ash falling.
Tilt your head and squint.
The long sleep punctured by blinding light.
learn to bear it. Learn to bear it all.
The summer you turned eighteen
We found ourselves in a place where the crickets
go all day without stopping once
their leggy insistence, that jubilant hum.
The sun came down easy on our bodies
and we wrote letters to our parents back home.
We sang the same song all day,
Aud Lang Syne with words I made up
because we had forgotten them all, laying there
on the park bench, in the grass,
by the water throwing light, near the broken fountain,
in the miraculous greenhouse. Later, I fed you
green olives which we bought by the pound
and held shining in our hands. At night
we found three sweet peppers arranged in a row
on the concrete steps leading up to a public statue
and you wanted to hold them, take them home.
That night I fed you cool water and placed them beside you
while you slept, the peppers nestled red, yellow, and orange
by the curve of your back. Outside,
the crickets sounded like some small eternity
and I listened while you slept, and I matched your breath,
and I held your hair, and I sang to you over and over again
In your wildest dreams you watch as the things you’ve built
shimmer and crumble— you are eating grapes as Rome burns.
You are Ajax and the sheep are dead. These dreams come monthly
and they sustain you. Upon waking you are dry-eyed and in a cold sweat.
Often you are lost at sea and stranded by a shipwreck of your own doing,
all that lusty steering with your eyes closed takes its toll.
You push others off the raft and open your mouth to catch the salted wind.
You wake trembling and smiling, light crawling over you from an open window.
When you find yourself Medea in her cave, as you sometimes do,
you haul your children up under your arms and let them dangle there while
praying for swiftness. Even you have your limits.
This dream stays with you for days.
When you cannot sleep you walk to the edge of the road and watch for deer.
You relish their mournful calm, that animal gloom.
If the deer do not come there is nothing to do.
You will not sleep that night.
You will instead walk up and down the lines of the road
waiting for light and sound to come and with them clarity.
You try in this time to repent for the dreams, for the taste of grapes
which you cling to even now, even here in the open,
even with the deer watching you from inside the woods, refusing to come to you,
refusing to lend you their gifts, or even to look you in the eye.