Sincerely Yours

for Josephine

Sometime in every month, at end of day,
I see your florid writing lying on my floor.
More than the sum of ink and paper – more
than all these bits of life you send my way –
I know this means I’ve been so long away
we’ve started planning went to meet, before
I even look up flights to Singapore.
– How’s work for you? Here everything’s OK. –
At times I write you late into the night,
putting thoughts down before they escape recall,
remembering: home, to me, is how you care.
And so these are the stories that we write:
the jokes, the sad and serious things, and all
the little bits of poetry we share.

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Lost Weight of Sunlight

And if I have to travel a milion miles
for you, so be it. I would do so in
bare feet, playing conversations in my
head while walking through space.
This is magnetism, this is gravity,
this is physical fact of existence.
You can’t touch me but you feel it
anyway, warmth, action at a distance,
caressing your skin. When I had mass
the universe blazed for me; now,
forgettable but necessary, I am only
breath of the angels, sound of the sea.

South of the River

The sun will forgive us, and the scarlet evenings,
and the bridges we keep crossing, exactly how we mean
when we keep saying We’ll cross that bridge when we
get there. This river, too, thousands of years old, it’ll
forgive us. The night air sparkles with things unsaid,
as well as my hand on the soft curve of your waist.
When the silence gets too loud I make my way to the
train station and watch thousands of people go by,
all of whom are not you. This is my penance. We are
merely messages in the dark, spilling over into the
day, me dozing off to hello and you saying goodnight
to me when you wake. That is how things begin.
Walk arm-in-arm with me. Late enough at night and
the trains eventually pull away into nothing. Farewells
are photos we nearly forget to take, winging their way
across thousands of miles of ether. There are things
nobody can hold onto; you slip from my embrace
again and again. Please forgive me. In the crowds
I search for your face, knowing you are not there.

The Poet is Remembered

He writes his name for the last time.
Ice clinks in the glass and ashes
cool by the stubbed-out cigarette.
These are familiar motions with a
familiar pen; final words on familiar paper.
His old thoughts will course through young
people, but for now his pen lies
holding those scratches and sketches
still. What is written will pass from
him through books into the lives
of others. He imagines a strong young voice
reading his words, sits back in his chair,
smiles.

Liebesleid

We were there long ago, the summer the world
burned under our feet, everything hanging still
the way the sunlight froze when you walked
through those doors and smiled, the evening
air falling in large chunks to the ground.
Someone is repeatedly turning the lights
on and off. Smoke comes through the door. It is
1910 and someone is playing the violin and we
waltz through an eternity of memory, things
I set in stone and arrange on a mantelpiece.
Long ago the grass was green and rivers ran
around us and we laughed. Those were simple
times, those days we set the world aflame.
You flow through me the way music
filled that church, us listening, hearts on fire.

Venezia, Italy

Old beauty, land of water, what are you?
What strange slave ants once dredged this hive, what law
once ruled these motley grounds, what people saw
the pound of flesh almost taken by the Jew?
The fogs descend and we are merely flies
that light upon your body for a while.
The world outside is gone. Stars do not smile.
The air is thick with gondoliers’ cries.
How can we, sighted, know your streets as well
as that blind man who sings his ancient tune
beside San Marco? Night awakens, calls
through your old darkness like a graveyard bell.
You simply are. You just exist, immune
to history trying to fell your timeless walls.

Off the Grid

Let’s pick a day, neglect to make our beds,
leave our devices home unplugged and seek
a weekend walking where the wi-fi’s weak,
GPS waves streaming over our heads.
We don’t need apps for this. Let’s trust the sun.
At end of day we’ll traipse west out the park
as deer doze off and streetlamps spot the dark.
Our phones can stay off until we are done.

We still have all these memories to make.
Let me have one more chance, someday, to take
your hand and listen to your laughter ring…
_______It’s 6 a.m. The alarms start to beep.
I watch the sun rise while you’re close to sleep,
but you are gone. The birds forget to sing.

What’s in a Name?

When picking cities, choose a tale: where life
and love fight wars, or where some legends tread
the ancient ways of bloodshed. We have read
our stories well: we know such star-crossed strife
still carries on, just modernised; the knife
that hangs over our heads still waits to fall.
From various balconies we hear their call,
old plots with newer names to drive us mad.
And yet, somehow, the city pulls me in:
your swollen heart, these candles lit by prayer,
my postcards to you writ upon the air.
This land of love exculpates us from sin;
its echoing voices tell of every way
two hearts may join before life ebbs away.

In other worlds…

In other worlds, we never get to meet:
the scheduling just doesn’t work that day
or one of us has rehearsals to play.
In other worlds the timing’s wrong. We meet
and then the air is tepid, or our feet
crunch just too loudly on the ground. You say
we’re fortunate. How much quantum collapse
has led us here? How many universes died
so we could live like this: a subway ride
with interlinked hands, lost with Google Maps
open on screens we have no patience for,
exploding into love? I do not care.
In this one instance you are mine. We share
this fighting chance and keep track of the score.

Foreign Language Acquisition

The syntax of affection bids us rise
to question possibilities and speak
of future tensions. Hear how meanings leak
across word boundaries. Conjugate surprise
into the way your hands so gently prise
open my heart, the grammar of your cheek
and caustic wit a part of rules I seek
to transcribe what we hitherto surmise.
This is the vocabulary of our love:
the mixing of our corpora, the poise
of register. You are a new dialect
to me and I have fluency to prove;
teach me to speak – teach me the various joys
of learning you in Subject Verb Object.