The spirit world the negative of this one, soft outlines of soft whites against soft darks, someone crossing Broadway at Cathedral, walking toward the god taking the picture, but now, inside the camera, suddenly still. Or the spirit world the detail through the window, manifest if stared at long enough, the shapes of this or that, the lights left on, the lights turned off, the spirits under arcs of sycamores the gray-gold mists of migratory birds and spotted leaves recognize. Autumnal evening chill, knife-edges of the avenues, wind kicking up newspaper off the street, those ghost peripheral moments you catch yourself beside yourself going down a stair or through a door—the spirit world surprising: those birds, for instance, bursting from the trees and turning into shadow, then nothing, like spirit birds called back to life from memory or a book, those shadows in my hands I held, surprised. I found them interspersed among the posthumous pages of a friend, some hundreds of saved poems: dun sparrows and a few lyrical wrens in photocopied profile perched in air, focused on an abstract abrupt edge. Blurred, their natural color bled, they'd passed from one world to another: the poems, too, sung in the twilit middle of the night, loved, half-typed, half-written-over, flawed, images of images. He'd kept them to forget them. And every twenty pages, in xerox ash-and-frost, Gray Eastern, Gold Western, ranging across borders.
From Old Heart by Stanley Plumly. Copyright © 2008 by Stanley Plumly. Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton. All rights reserved.