What was the future then but affirmation,
The first yes between us
Followed by the first lingering dawn?
Waking below a window shaded by redwoods
(Waking? We hadn’t slept—),
We found time saved, like sunlight in a tree.
Still, the house was cold, and there were shadows.
The couple in the next room
Rapped the wall to quiet us, like them,
Condescending from a bitter knowledge
That, young as we all were,
Love didn’t last, but receded into silence.
Wedging our pillows back of the headboard
That clapped in time with us,
We let them think we agreed. Then, holding on,
We closed each other’s mouths and felt that slowness
That the best days begin with
Turn into the speed with which they fly.
Flight was that year’s theme, all around us—
Flight of hunter and hunted,
The President turning inward on one wing,
And, on the patio, the emigration
Of termites, a glittering fleet,
Leaving that shadowed house a little lighter.
Within it all, above it, or beyond,
We thought we were the fixed point,
And held still as the quail lit down beside us
And waited for her plump mate to appear,
His crest a quivering hook.
The valley’s reach of sunshine reeled them in.
There was wilderness around us, don’t forget.
Behind the nets of fragrance
Thrown across our path by the acacia
Lurked the green man or the kidnapper.
And there was the Pacific
With its own passions taking place as rain.
The sorrow of the couple in the next room
Was a deep muteness nightly.
That loneliness could come of loving was
Like news of time cored out of the redwood.
The house that we made shake,
Or thought we did, was taking wing already.
After we left, still it took us years
Before we stopped comparing
Every morning together to that first one
And every place we lived to that first place
And everything we said
To that first word repeated all night long.
Mark Jarman, “Days of ’74” from The Black Riviera. Copyright © 1990 by Mark Jarman. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press, www.wesleyan.edu/wespress.
Source: The Black Riviera (Wesleyan University Press, 1990)
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