When I was a child, I had a dream I was running fleet-footed from my mother’s house, past the homes of the young girls who shunned me, past my elementary school, past the old Catholic church, past our railway station, past an empty park bench, past the five and dime all the way to Jones Beach, where I crossed what seemed a mile-long expanse of burning sand so I could dive into the water and sit at the bottom of the sea. There, I discovered I could breathe easily and well if I took small, sip-like breaths. In my 20s and 30s, I ran through streets, up and down hills, and around tracks. I didn’t much like it, running, but it was the only thing I could do to persuade myself I was free. In recent years, I discovered long-distance walking around and around an indoor track, where I again found a kind of freedom so long as I didn’t stop. Now it appears I have badly torn my Achilles tendon, what with all those many miles of my moving sorrow from pillar to post.
In the fever dream I mean to write a love poem,
an ode really, but without any edges,
and begin to think how I can sardine together
tender words you would have wanted to hear:
(as a woman might call to a sailor tossed over the bow)
or try and imagine a blue-black ocean crashing waves
of churning conch pearls onto the brown sand and
burying you knee deep in abalone shell.
Hearing the laughter of a Siren from another dark sea
I look up just as she touches your mouth with a fingertip and
whispers something saucy enough to make you
grab hold her hips and quick swim away from me.
In the morning dream I awaken
belly down on a bed of cracked earth
and somehow know that our hot-dim world
has been without rain and bright light for years.
Off to the right stands a ramshackle cottage
where we once lived with our young children —
well kept then, our cottage —
with the front window kicked out across its middle and
looking like a row of jagged teeth.
Just inside sits our long table,
now made of red hickory,
where we ate a last meal together, the twins,
as you may recall,
spooning sweet potato pie onto the good plates
while two flickering honey candles dripped wax
on the turkey platter and our kind but unlovely
Charlotte, your dear girl,
quietly carved her first name into my sideboard.
4. and down
At some point I notice the basement door
and am eager to remember what else we left behind
so slowly descend the wooden stairs though
cannot see much of anything and
missing the bottom step altogether
fall forward into the silent wide open.