by Richard Fein
Freeing breadsticks from their wrappers, I see
tiny lit bulbs that limn and supplant a tree
outside the restaurant have come to haunt the windowpane,
like a constellation wired into glass;
through another window—
a whitish yellow streak
discharged by a sentry-lamppost
stationed near the lake’s membrane of ice . . .
our talk becomes a diversion as I indulge
my absenteeism, concentrating on the waiters
who in their long white aprons
look like spotless workers in an abattoir;
and then I see myself as a double failure—
far from your immediacies but also delinquent
in showing you what poetry does (unless
my preoccupation shows), and I wish
I could read poems to you, to our daughters,
sons-in-law, say, Wordsworth’s
“Intimations Ode,” and we’d all feel,
like him, the power of return, or replenishment.
I imagine an art where the lights make
their patterns yet don’t efface the tree,
the way ice sleeves and clarifies
limbs and stems, or snow webs the crotches
of trees, where branches fork
and multiply toward the minutest twigs.
But for now I return to you speechless,
averse to telling you where I’ve been.
Settling back in and joining you,
I smile at the way we’re both entranced
by the waiter’s finesse with the silver
decrumber—like a tiny snowplough
that scoops up instead of pushing away,
as he guides it with his fingers.
Then on the way home, walking past
the Common, we watch how the nightwind
rouses the branches their bulbs obscure
but we know are moving because of constellations
undulating in the dark, and our hearts
are lifted, each saying , “Look, look.”
Copyright © 2003 by Richard Fein.