Ex­cerpts from a Se­cret Prophecy

New England Review - - Reports From Abroad - Joanna Klink

No one knew how to live there mer­ci­less midAt­lantic heat grime on the hot car win­dows and trash-heaps along school­yards we went to neigh­bor­hood mar­kets for col­lards Satur­day the hu­mid­ity at 9 a.m. al­ready un­bear­able in grooves down our cheeks rough trust that we wouldn’t have to stay make a home there never a grand city at night where blue-sooted evenings you could stand on the side­walk and look in

Win­dows fire-bled so that fig­ures at meals seemed to rise in gray ra­di­ance

Who looks in­side says less and less the years aban­don­ing their force I re­mem­ber black shades of red wine the books I could barely af­ford twice a day to the li­brary home­less men asleep by its pil­lars af­ter­noon rains in Bal­ti­more dark blue against the energy at work in my head

And so of­ten in the af­ter­noons I have felt this strange men­tal life curv­ing sep­a­rate as if my blood were iron the storms ar­riv­ing in pat­terns of lush thun­der a cool spray spun back from the grass

Once I lived throat­less be­lieved that hold­ing back sor­row would make sor­row soften So easy to place an X over who you were the soil un­der rain now the fires shift­ing plates be­neath this wet ce­ment

And if I have hoped for more it is only the whole of lone­li­ness swept away by un­der­stand­ing Who were you then want­ing to learn read­ing all day all night fall in a strange city year af­ter year No one knew what to tell me keep study­ing through the bay win­dow sirens and the si­lences that fol­lowed snow blur­ring down to the sick city-trees walk­ing to cam­pus hi hello the women in Ital­ian boots for sem­i­nars four hours later at the cross­walk you saw no one you knew

You greet each per­son on the street and the dark civ­i­liza­tion of wind slams through you No one knew what was com­ing mis­car­riage di­vorce dis­ease the coun­try at war air bright­en­ing and dark­en­ing around the note­books I hauled wher­ever I went was I meant to un­der­stand then how lit­tle I would mat­ter to the fu­ture I spent win­ters sum­mers try­ing to see driv­ing out to the horse farms poplars lin­ing the road pools of sun­light sink­ing into fields the air dark­en­ing how long can you wait your body crowded-over with clouds and grasses whole child­hoods of grain blown back and forth in­side your eyes I waited a long time to find you late in my life home­sick for noth­ing I could rec­og­nize another win­ter in an eastern city

iron grates dust­ing over with snow quiet cells at night un­de­tected for­get­table by dawn Still I watched you place your hand against the win­dow’s ice-burned sheet and trace wet stars that rose in ghostly lines dur­ing the city’s night-slowed snow­fall ware­houses leap­ing to your touch roughed in brick Your eyes ev­ery­thing worth striv­ing for to be what you saw There were times with you burn­ing through skin mar­row shadow night af­ter night what you brought to my body when we agreed on si­lence I never imag­ined such close­ness

De­spite the ter­ri­ble pre­dic­tions we drove to the coast mi­nus 10 and the beach was frozen pressed trans­par­ent ice against our eyes And no­body stood with us trou­bled by the ocean ma­te­ri­als oily de­bris car­casses of sea fish lan­guish­ing frozen by the iced sea­weed a kind of tun­dra we crossed as though had we kept mov­ing a crea­ture might sim­ply turn alive the gulls hud­dling in their slicked wings for heat our lungs drain­ing fill­ing with ice air

And the wide still­ness where the gull-cries should have been Place an X over who you were it doesn’t help Shut your eyes there are abra­sions be­neath the eye­lids Com­ing to un­der­stand the ones you most love will die out here I can feel the weight of the sky the evening turn­ing black its arid grasses

You changed who I was around you I felt the need for pat­tern a phys­i­cal need to bring the hard light of the stars in­side it never worked Un­der this moon the moun­tains rip­ple in moth-thin­ness they would be crushed if you touched them

and the old oaks brac­ing the street the theater whose plac­ard is half-stitched by frost are nerve-end­ings where the sting of be­ing-alive can’t stay cap­tured

Night-watcher Pil­lar passed iri­des­cent ice film­ing on the lake the wa­ter caught in mer­ci­ful shades of white

The lines were cut deeply by skaters I moved the words in my head try­ing to say what it has meant So much yours I hardly saw what was hap­pen­ing to me give your­self like that and you are sure to lose some­thing Hold­ing up all the beams of a life you paced along book­shelves smoked con­stantly nico­tine arch­ing through the cra­nial vault the same one splen­did with thoughts some days whiten­ing to dis­ar­ray Who looks in­side says less and less I felt be­low the blue-brown sea­sons of snow the des­ic­cated grooves of branches some­thing shift my love leav­ing you

Spring pre-spring an in­crease in pests and par­a­sites plants bloom­ing too early I let it fall apart and when it did couldn’t un­der­stand what was be­ing asked of me

Spring rains re­fill­ing the aquifer all sum­mer alone again or­ange cat sprawled across the dic­tionary stand­ing at the win­dow night af­ter night remembering the prairies where I was born un­der deep lakes of cloud It didn’t help noth­ing helped No one knew what to tell me

How long can I wait what I say to­day and what I say to­mor­row per­ish equally I loved you but have al­ready for­got­ten how it felt per­haps a joy that came in droves

Out here you can hear ev­ery­thing at night a dog in the dis­tance call­ing out for com­pany some­one slam­ming a door Just to stay and not be drawn for­ward light in the af­ter­noons slowly sail­ing into pines

I have tried to be both open and and find my­self al­ways moored by in­ner anchors

But most hopes are pri­vate and flicker be­tween bur­dens we can’t share

Per­haps like the wooden rains that drop across this val­ley you are drawn to still­ness per­haps like me you are clear­ing a space in­side you a floor where ev­ery­thing might spill The clouds above these ridges show no hint of any cause Night falls again we river into one another not un­der­stand­ing how much debt we owe to those we pass on the street Like you I would have done things dif­fer­ently would have held on longer The world breaks is al­ways break­ing our bod­ies bear tremen­dous sor­row and still we stay as long as we can

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