After vespers, after the first snow has fallen to its squalls, after New Wave, after the anorexics have curled into their geometric forms, after the man with the apparition in his one bad eye has done red things behind the curtain of the lid & sleeps, after the fallout shelter in the elementary school has been packed with tins & other tangibles, after the barn boys have woken, startled by foxes & fire, warm in their hay, every part of them blithe & smooth & touchable, after the little vandals have tilted toward the impossible seduction to smash glass in the dark, getting away with the most lethal pieces, leaving the shards which travel most easily through flesh as message on the bathroom floor, the parking lots, the irresistible debris of the neighbor’s yard where he’s been constructing all winter long. After the pain has become an old known friend, repeating itself, you can hold on to it. The power of fright, I think, is as much as magnetic heat or gravity. After what is boundless: wind chimes, fertile patches of the land, the ochre symmetry of fields in fall, the end of breath, the beginning of shadow, the shadow of heat as it moves the way the night heads west, I take this road to arrive at its end where the toll taker passes the night, reading. I feel the cupped heat of his left hand as he inherits change; on the road that is not his road anymore I belong to whatever it is which will happen to me. When I left this city I gave back the metallic waking in the night, the signals of barges moving coal up a slow river north, the movement of trains, each whistle like a woodwind song of another age passing, each ambulance would split a night in two, lying in bed as a little girl, a fear of being taken with the sirens as they lit the neighborhood in neon, quick as the fire as it takes fire & our house goes up in night. After what is arbitrary: the hand grazing something too sharp or fine, the word spoken out of sleep, the buckling of the knees to cold, the melting of the parts to want, the design of the moon to cast unfriendly light, the dazed shadow of the self as it follows the self, the toll taker’s sorrow that we couldn’t have been more intimate. Which leads me back to the land, the old wolves which used to roam on it, the one light left on the small far hill where someone must be living still. After life there must be life.
From A Hunger by Lucie Brock-Broido, published by Alfred A. Knopf. Copyright © 1988 by Lucie Brock-Broido. Reprinted by permission of the publisher and author. All rights reserved.