Loss takes place
in the mouth first; the scream
possible only after
the mouth is empty.
If the veins on a man’s face
were to break free,
what would they touch first?
— Arlene Ang, from “Skin”
It is hard to tell whether it is
mist or fog. Or the collecting gray. Or mere distance.
Not until there is that single word that reaches deep
into our lungs and pulls out the last, enduring breath.
Yet the absence of the imagination had
Itself to be imagined.
For my Mother, born March 1902, died March 1959
and my Father, born February 1900, died June 1959
Gone, I say and walk from church,
refusing the stiff procession to the grave,
letting the dead ride alone in the hearse.
It is June. I am tired of being brave.
We drive to the Cape. I cultivate
myself where the sun gutters from the sky,
where the sea swings in like an iron gate
and we touch. In another country people die.
My darling, the wind falls in like stones
from the whitehearted water and when we touch
we enter touch entirely. No one’s alone.
Men kill for this, or for as much.
And what of the dead? They lie without shoes
in the stone boats. They are more like stone
than the sea would be if it stopped. They refuse
to be blessed, throat, eye and knucklebone.
Insatiable April, trees in place,
in their scraped-out place,
Their red branch areas,
green shoot areas (shock),
river, that one.
I surprised a goose and she hissed.
I walk and walk with cold hands.
Back at the house it is filled with longing,
nothing to carry longing away.
I look back over my life.
I try to find analogies.
There are none.
I have longed for people before, I have loved people before.
Not like this.
It was not this.
Give me a world, you have taken the world I was.
Actually not. Feigned leap into—
river glimpsed through bare
[some noun] for how thought breaks up around you not here
your clothes not wet in this deep mirror—
what Hölderlin calls die Tageszeichen, signs
scored into the soul by the god of each day
your answer scars, I still don’t know—
years from now, these
notations in the address book, this frantic hand.
to all the unsaid
all the lost living untranslated
in any sense,
and the dead
only in dreams that die by morning
is a mourning or ghostwalking only.
You must make, said music
in its voice of metal and wood
in its dancing diagrams, moving
apart and together, along
and over and under a line
and speaking in one voice,
my image. Let be
what is gone.
-Denise Levertov, “The Charge”
A melancholy of mine own
It is a melancholy of my own
woven out of my own world
out of all that did not happen
all that was done
out of paths through woods and across fields
out of hanging branches of hazel
that hit the face
out of the tangle of graveyard blackberries
out of the whiteness of snows
out of heavy birds
A melancholy of my own like the face
impossible to tear off
(translated by Grazyna Drabik and David Curzon)