Driving to Santa Fe
Quick swim up
through the headlights: gold eye
a startle in black: green swift glance
raking mine. A full second
we held each other, gone.
Gone. And how did I know
what to call it? Lynx, the only possible
reply though I’d never seen one. The car
filling with it: moonlight,
piñon: a cat’s acrid smell
of terror. How quickly the gray body
fled, swerving to avoid
my light. And how often
that sight returns to me, shames me
to know how much more this fragment
matters. More than the broad back
of a man I loved. More than the image
of my friend, cancer-struck, curled
by her toilet. More than my regret
for the child I did not have which I thought
once would pierce me, utterly. Nothing
beside that dense muscle, faint gold guard hairs
stirring the dark. And if I keep
these scraps of it, what did it keep of me?
A flight, a thunder. A shield of light
dropped before the eyes, pinned
inside that magnificent skull only time
would release. Split back, fade
and reveal. Wind
would open him. Sun would turn him
commonplace: a knot of flies, a ribcage
of shredded tendon, wasp-nest
fragile. The treasure of him, like anything,
gone. Even now, I thumb that face
like a coin I cannot spend. If something in me
ever lived, it lived in him, fishing the cold
trout-thick streams, waking to snow, dying
when he died, which is a comfort.
I must say this. Otherwise, I myself
do not exist. It looked at me
a moment. A flash of green, of gold
and white. Then the dark came down again
between us. Once, I was afraid
of being changed. Now that is finished.
The lynx has me in its eye.
I am already diminished.
From Nightingale (Copper Canyon Press, 2019). Copyright © 2019 by Paisley Rekdal. Used with the permission of the poet.