For Tess and Ray
Shaken and jubilant at the edge of the woods knowing
we’d seen Death but Death had not seen us.
And that night midnight jazz from San Francisco, saxo
phone, trumpet, notes so pure the future
became suddenly possible.
Friends living their lives year following year,
disasters at their feet, small ignoble failures like
wood shavings they kick aside seeming not to notice
and why not?—the logic of survival.
Oh Jesus he was speaking of the beauty of white.
The mad white rim of the eyeball above the iris.
Ice. Ivory. Paper. Snow. White-walled rooms
with white-framed windows fixing the Absolute.
How present tense resolves itself whitely to past.
Don’t look. Don’t look-circling the dead deer
at the edge of the woods. A doe, and how mute. And
how heavy lying on its side, the girth of its belly
that seemed swollen, stiffened legs, the gaping muzzle
and a bright buzz of flies. And wonder seized us.
That morning of grasses now Death. The fresh-painted
room smelling of Death. Steam rising from gratings
in the street that is Death but mysterious the way
the poem is always a love poem always in love with
its subject-helpless, chagrined. The way fireflies
drifting against the window demonstrate that the Absolute
doesn’t matter. Do you know he said that sensation
driving into a city you’ve never seen before mile upon
mile of houses, streets So many human beings who don’t
know us and it’s a child’s amazement denied at once
like the discovery of jewel-weed named because of the glit
tering drops of moisture at the corners of the leaves
in the early morning, or daisy named for the day’s eye,
the creek you’d see as a child miles from home and some
one would say, There!—that’s our creek, and you’d have
to take it on faith, so much existence wider than you
know. And plaques for the dead like poems no one reads
crusted in birdlime and the birds close by with their
sun-sparked song persisting It’s always the same morning!
—and why not? Already the asphalt is cracking, giant
weeds pushing up from beneath. Weedy logic.