It is impossible to forgive whoever has done us harm,
if that harm has lowered us. We have to think that it has not lowered us,
but has revealed our true level.
––Simone Weil, Gravity and Grace
The receiver pulsing back signals, the postmark
from a place we didn’t know a friend had traveled to,
sudden turns too late for directionals—
it always begins with signs we don’t want to construe
while we fix the fabric for the heartbreak
that soon will be needled in. Then what we did,
or what we said, leads us back to old scenes
and old lines, to a father’s watch and chain,
transformed from a century’s curio to the device
of his split-second authority—time keeper whose thumb
clap of the cover over the golden numbers on the face
was the noise of his hand closing a tiny door on the soul.
Agents book memory for a long run in the house
where the child’s eyes could not penetrate the iron
bun packed at the back of the grandmother’s skull,
where his mother’s fists blindly tightened the bow
at the back of the apron, loops as large as a halter.
Yet years later someone comes whom we let in, the memory
set for fresh storaging—red sweater under a gray jumper,
a Schubert cycle at the Y, warm chestnuts
shared on the winding path back of the museum.
All too human the confederation of pleasures, the gambol
of soul-mating. But when the past worms through,
clinging to us during the whole-hearted affair,
and we sink back to the old level of ourselves, defeat
is what we are left with. And so we are bared to ourselves,
like stains exposed on the pillars of a bridge when the water’s down,
and staring at a brownish crust or mossy coating on the stone thighs,
we wonder what other shades or vegetation cling below.
Copyright © 1999 by Richard