Is it agony that has bleached them to such beauty? Their stand is at the edge of our property—white spires like fingers, through which the deer emerge with all the tentative grace of memory. Your father loved these trees. When you try to imagine his childhood, it is all old footage, in a similar scheme: black and white. But he died, and all you know is that they reminded him of home. As they remind you he is gone to a country as unimaginable as his life before you were born, before the woman who would be your mother lived as she does now—lost, wandering at the edge of her life’s whitened gates. After a storm, one birch fell in the field, an ivory buttress collapsed across the pasture. Up close there is pink skin beneath the paper, green lichen ascending in settlements of scales. In the dark yard it beckons you back to snow, the static of the past—your father, a boy, speaking in a tongue you never knew, calling down from the branches. Or the letter you wrote to a mother you weren’t allowed to miss—black ink scrawled across the white pulp of the page: I am very lonely without you.
At the time the time felt well spent but now
I see it was wasted. Not a waste—it just had
no point—no shape—no hourglass’ tapering
waist. At a certain point, bliss gets replaced
by disinterest. If you will allow me for once
to be honest. I left the sea’s lacy wake, waking
each day well-rested, untested, unmet. Nothing
was going to change, and that was the point.
The seabirds sang: Protect your gifts! burying
their doomed eggs in the sand—sand to heat,
to melt, shape into that chalice of time: bulb
upon bulb, curvaceous, urgent as an aging
odalisque. It was a version of love not meant
to set—the best—not trashed, but wholly left
to the mists of that idly mown lawn, the little
boat trolling a coast, bereft of tide or tempest.