I listen from the other room as slow bells ring, as you take each glass from the water washing it with the soapy canary yellow dishrag that your mother knitted for us last Christmas. And though I can't see your hands I can hear the wetness like the sound of fingers on a fogged car window, thinking about how there is a certain beauty to the atonal, a certain human quality to the arrhythmic. Like the trees outside our bedroom which grow thirty branches in every direction, or the clouds that move above them in no particular pattern. Yet each and every summer I will hear the sounds of small birds just before dawn and later see the erratic transmissions of lightning bugs. And so it is here, in this atmosphere. We wake up, we begin to push the unseen weight, we shift the glory, we do the dishes. And though the grand rhythm is not of our choosing, it seems to be our creaturely duty to show what this living sounds like when the beat is missed or even remains unheard. This is our rage and our subtle acknowledgment that we do not feel alone as much as abandoned.
Each twist of bird and clover winds so cunningly into a sheen of wing and figured leaf. Indigo, ground lapis lazuli, dark ochre, cochineal bleed across each page; so worlds are wrung, with a deft touch of wolf's hair, into this tiny Eden. It's enough to make us forget the late spring snow outside, the slippery pavement and faintly flowering bush. Here is a secret refuge. For Adam and Eve everything, everything waits on their pleasure—light, darkness, and dazzling color, the curve of hand on hip or breast. At night the fields whisper with hidden life; they take the cool of the evening in sweet-smelling bowers, neither looking forward nor back to the time before creation. The tree-line shivers with their every indrawn breath.
Dawn is a dog's yawn, space in bed where a body should be, a nectared yard, night surviving in wires through which what voices, what needs already move--and the mind nibbling, nibbling at Nothingness like a mouse at cheese:
Sometimes one has the sense that to say the name God is a great betrayal, but whether one is betraying God, language, or one's self is harder to say.
Gone for the day, she is the day opening in and around me like flowers she planted in our yard. Christ. Not flowers. Gone for the day, she is the day razoring in with the Serbian roofers, and ten o'clock tapped exactly by the one bad wheel of the tortilla cart, and the newborn's noonday anguish eased. And the tide the mind makes of traffic and the bite of reality that brings it back. And the late afternoon afterlight in which a much-loved dog lies like a piece of precocious darkness lifting his ears at threats, treats, comings, goings . . .
* To love is to feel your death given to you like a sentence, to meet the judge's eyes as if there were a judge, as if he had eyes, and love.
This poem appears in Wiman’s Every Riven Thing (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).
It begins in a cow lane with bees and white clover, courses along corn, picks up tempo against rocks. It rises to a teetering pitch as I cross a shaky tree-bridge, syncopates a riff over the dissonance of trash—derelict ice box with a missing door, mohair loveseat sinking into thistle. It winds through green adder's mouth, faint as the bells of Holsteins turning home. Blue shadows lengthen, but the undertow of a harmony pulls me on through raspy Joe-pye-weed and staccato-barbed fence. The creek hums in a culvert beneath cars, then empties into a river that flows oboe-deep past Indian dance ground, waterwheel and town, past the bleached stones in the churchyard, past the darkening hill.