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Someone arranged them in 1620.
Someone found the rare lemon and paid a lot and neighbored it next to the plain pear, the plain apple of the lost garden, the glass of wine, set down mid-sip —
don't drink it, someone said, it's for the painting. And the rabbit skull —
whose idea was that? There had been a pistol but someone was told, no,
put that away, into the box with a key though the key had been misplaced now for a year. The artist wanted light too, for the shadows.
So the table had to be moved. Somewhere I dreamt the diary entry on this, reading the impossible Dutch quite well, thank you, and I can translate it here, someone writing
it is spring, after all, and Herr Müller wants a window of it in the painting, almost a line of poetry, I thought even then,
in the dream, impressed with that "spring after all," that
"window of it" especially, how sweet and to the point it came over into English with no effort at all as I slept through the night. It was heavy,
that table. Two workers were called from the east meadow to lift and grunt and carry it across the room, just those few yards. Of course one of them exaggerated the pain in his shoulder.
Not the older, the younger man.
No good reason to cry out like that. But this was art. And he did, something sharp and in the air that one time. All of them turning then,
however slightly. And there he was,
eyes closed, not much more than a boy, before the talk of beauty started up again.
under a pen isn't snow. I see the real thing out my window piled up in cold sunlight. It just isn't.
Isn't a lapse of anyone's memory though that might help me sleep. I'm anyone at night.
New paper getting inked up already with words. Revision: inked up already with these words.
But it is, it is a cold war movie about Russia. Lots of tundra, and little mustached figures bundled up in the corner, waiting to do something. On skis.
Or dog sleds. A throw-back. Before the Revolution? Before the Revolution.
Or not. I can't make it out for the snow locked back in that theater,
voices that blast the eardrum straight, such would-be whispers of love. How is it that time has layers and layers,
some of which never move or fill up. Meanwhile: a favorite word any poem understands to be snow's most legendary suggestion.
The second: melt.
The third: I need to freeze first.
Not the underwater goggles to see great distances, not the let's pretend
of the museum's "Street of Yesteryear,"
its candy's single stripes in jars, life-sized dummy at the counter,
stiff collar and apron, eyes skewed to retrieve his blank good will. Nor is it book after book of the same war
over remembered time, the old nun called it,
speeded up for the test. Wars of different colors, weaves and counterweaves,
different surgical instruments, different agonies via different far-off blasts, different endlessly pointless outcomes, different tiny viruses ingesting the lungs first, derailing trains there,
breath starting and stopping at each smoky depot.
I sat at a desk where we all sat. I opened that book of flags. Once a woman took up a whole half page, looming there,
middle of the 19th century, absolutely glacial because happiness is momentary and eternity is work, the camera shrouded, laying its slow black against white until her terrible face found me.
Was that childhood going on? That noise in the background — half-starved, deranged bird,
half Hallelujah Chorus sung by the whole town, bad tenors included? Ache of cold metal on the playground,
one glove lost forever, night,
hours of it, caught by a streetlight?
Which is simply the past. In that book now, isn't it?
And a child is writing his name in the flyleaf, under two or three other names, the book already underlined,
half-forgotten. Write clearly,
write in ink, the teacher is saying.
AFTER THE MOON
eclipsed itself, the rumor of darkness true, the whole radiant business almost over, only a line,
an edge, like some stray part of a machine not one of us can figure any more:
what it thrashed or cut, what it sewed quietly together, what it scalded or brought back from the dead. After this,
I came inside to sleep.
But it's the moon still,
pale run of it shaping the door closed against the half-lit hall.
The eye is its own small flicker orbiting under the lid a few hours.
Not so long,
giving up its genius briefly, mountains under dark, craters where someone, then no one is walking.
A MUSICAL IDEA
At the second light, you turn, the boy tells me.
I turn. A musical idea. Turn then,
when a light in any house goes on.
Dark end of the day on the street. Dark late afternoon in November.
In any kitchen — revealed: the hum
starts in the freezer, down the lower shelves, takes the stove back to its fire. The sink is an absence,
one tea-stained cup left to seed.
I live somewhere. But to walk away is a musical idea. Because a corner means
make a profile to however once you were. Once a child, I kept turning full-faced into everything, never
saying a word. You like to think that, my brother says. I heard you plenty of times. And you were hiding.
To shrink down and not be small but just to see again, he said of the past, the past as broken mirror,
as weird-looking stick because this was the woods,
halfway through the hike.
To refrain from the cheesy, the self-serving, from knowing too much. That voice,
his again. So there were rules. But how can we know too much, she said. Memory,
she said, come on, it's all about forgetting. Think of the things lost to make that box of odds and ends. They
kept walking. Somewhere, a real road. They could hear it. He almost told her,
you'll test me now. You'll ask me how long did it take to hold a pencil, to write the word
fabulous or maybe just dog
for the first time. And if he shook his head — See? she'd say,
see? I remember the fifth grade, he said,
those endless afternoons, don't you?
Not one, she said. They got quiet, the river on their left now, the water too low. The whole world needed rain. But she flashed on that strange little storefront in Oregon once,
the counterman saying: why, there you are! I've been waiting a decade for you to walk in here.
Then she was telling it, outloud, in the air. Probably a pick-up line, he said. What were you? 20? 22? Sudden click in her head, a double take, two exposures, one picture,
the first shock of it back from the photo lab:
and here I thought
it merely some brilliant bit of the novel my life was writing. Did they pause?
Because I hear him about to say:
so you kept it, that's funny. They walked on. A field opened up. Is that a song sparrow
or a white-throat? he said. I can't remember, she said, notes rushing downward but three clear hesitations before that great blurring. It got darker,
crooked ash and ivy, an overgrown path where I stopped.
Where the two of them kept going.
I can be nice. I can put my body flat, down straight, and pull sleep from somewhere deep
in the brain, that no-weather thing, that blank page-
after-page thing. I can be
nice enough and say nothing, drift to the cool room under a blanket, under all the things
I have to do. Count them. Count forward or backward: glue broken things, fill the feeder,
work for a living, make supper, go anxious unto guilty unto anxious, full circle. I can love
humankind. I can do that.
I can close my eyes on the bright windows my neighbors have
framing their big TVs. I can understand.
I can be nice when others decide, steeling myself, but not as well as my tiny
grandmother did, the tallest person in the room for a moment. I can, mostly,
drive past Burger King, its Good Luck
Staci (oh, Stacy with an i!) We Miss You!
on whatever the marquee's called now, be touched and sweetened
or nice enough not to notice. And bite my tongue. Good doggy. Be nice now, be nice. I can sacrifice muscle
and bone to sit longer, showing interest (show interest, my mother warned as we walked through any really large
set of doors). I know German has a word, nett, for nice. I can put myself in that net, drop down so close
to what is underwater that the fish know me as small,
silent, as sleek and shiny as
they happen to be. And so weightless there, blue beyond thought. One would hardly
guess how nice it is, those fish suspended next to me, their mouths opening and closing.
SEVEN AUBADES FOR SUMMER
I read the roof next door. I read the shingles, their stony overlap, the stubborn look my grandmother gave me: I won't walk that street. I hate those people. But she didn't say that. I was a child. And to protect is to change the subject and leave the wound, only one of us staring down and down. So it was she clipped the brown glass to her glasses and we took a different route. Brick sidewalk, weedy grass. The shrug of a small town. And her steel,
a flash of it. One bird out there can't get over his song. To repeat is to remember. To remember is to go on and on. Anyway, my husband said this morning, throwing back the sheet.
No one take credit. It came to me in a dream is all anyone can say. The dream of two sparks makes another spark. And if only I could think beyond and more oddly, this stolid whatever-it-is, this stanza
a room, just a figure in a doorway about to leave or to enter. It was my mother come back to life, so much younger as I slept, plotting herself out of a marriage. So I finally witnessed it, the moment she opened and closed and opened. But how did it end?
My standing there, my wanting to ...
And the sequel, her splintered look of no and yes. And I was the child who emptied to say anything at all.
That's summer, isn't it? The earth turned toward instead of away. It takes a whole night to do that. She's a busy little bee, I heard someone say yesterday, each word a stone set down carefully, each weighing a pound or two. I work on that, both the acid and the praise. Nothing's simple,
not even the start of the day.
Cars go either way up the street,
blue and dark green and red, white and off white, dashes of color that vanish under fabric —
someone patient, someone stitching.
And closer, those trees, conifers, both of them older than I am, huge.
And if I find grief in their shade this early, if I find my own blurred self cast on the ground there, a shape,
shadow, not the real branch and shiver, what am I — a thief, a liar?
But I would. I'd steal from those trees, how daylight comes and throws them out of themselves onto walkway and grass. I thought stain.
I thought locked-to-it, these years and years.
My brother on the porch once in light like this, aiming his camera off its sturdy tripod, black and big enough to leave a sleeping baby in who dreams without language, without any past at all.
So he disappeared inside its shroud, weird costume in a miracle play, not the horse's head kept for the pageant but a box that repeats and stills, this dark he pulls over himself to be no one the long moment. What did the lens narrow to, if not — no —
the clematis purpling wildly in its fretwork.
Here is summer, said the light. Welcome to my hunger,
said the wren, trilling sideways and out. And the nuthatch, his elegant gloom over everything is nevertheless sweet. Shrink it down, make it stay. Between leaf and leaf is wind but only the leaf says so. Or both of them. Or all of them,
brief frenzy. I knew night all night.
If I skipped a day, would there be a song? Let the cat do it, stretched on the bed, sprawled against me, not wary for once. Let the print of a print of a print Doré once did do it, there on the wall, angels in the dark coming at me off a ship in those waters,
the 19th century endless and adrift and never light enough to see. Let the three doors of this room open to it. Let the laundry basket overflow with it. Let the books piled whichever way and too many do it, cry aubade, cry word no one knows anymore,
its little scheme to stop time almost stopped. Let my tea do it, a hit of milk, no sugar. Am I done with this? Am I? Day that will pass and not be remembered, lighter than its air.
Trustees of the dark, I heard you voting to adjourn, declaring yourselves over and incompetent, no longer fit to govern. I saw your cruise of a lifetime dissolve past the shadowy dock, into last as in last night, the wee hours, the lie-awake-
Five now, or six. I count them out there, just a part of what's bigger —
branch and car door, bird quick or slow,
back to back, call and call, this one thing after another, dizzy-sharp then simply dizzy. Try closing your eyes again. Try those other things.
THE PARK IN NOVEMBER
could be part rain or part twilight or it's a car pulling up. Late afternoon not warm, not too cold.
It's I haven't, I couldn't. But a woman sits in that car, a man there too,
a shadow coming down not a curse,
just rain with its nothing to do in this shelter. It's damp and nothing but benches cut with a knife: the standard fuck you and so-
and-so loves Julie or Mike or Chris W, names scratched inside nervous little hearts, each a heat-sink, stupid sudden-luck box, a wound in reverse. I can't tell. Why would anyone sit in a car like that? She's crying.
Or he could be crying. I see it.
I x-ray dusk. I'm a tragedy-seeking instrument of — no, not light. Her hands on the wheel,
she's miles from here now. Rain,
the afternoon, those hardly-any-words between them. I mean nothing opens why she stays up front, why he's over into the back now. Why the car is a room in a house neither imagined. Why breath goes white on a window if certain things cannot be said.
Excerpted from "Grace, Fallen from"
Copyright © 2008 Marianne Boruch.
Excerpted by permission of Wesleyan University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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