A cold wind, later, but no rain.
A bus breathing heavily at the station.
Beggars at the gate, and the moon
like one bright horn of a white
cow up there in space. But
really, must I think about all this
a second time in this short life?
This crescent moon, like a bit
of ancient punctuation. This
pause in the transience of all things.
Up there, Ishtar in the ship
of life he’s sailing. Has
he ripped open again his sack of grain?
Spilled it all over the place?
Bubbles rising to the surface, breaking.
Beside our sharpened blades, they’ve
set down our glasses of champagne.
A joke is made. But, really, must
I hear this joke again?
Must I watch the spluttering
light of this specific flame? Must I
consider forever the permanent
transience of all things:
The bus, breathing at the station.
The beggars at the gate.
The girl I was.
Both pregnant and chaste.
The cold wind, that crescent moon.
No rain. What difference
can it possibly make, that
pain, now that not a single
anguished cry of it remains?
Really, must I grieve it all again
a second time, and why tonight
of all the nights, and just
as I’m about to raise, with the
blissful others, my
glass to the silvery, liquid
chandelier above us?
Copyright © 2015 by Laura Kasischke. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 6, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.
“‘Champagne’ recounts not just a single incident in my life when what was supposed to be an ecstatic moment was intruded upon by a bad memory, but hundreds of such incidents. The self in the poem is struggling against the self’s insistence on that psychological habit.”