Gone is Gone

                               for Lucie Brock-Broido
 

            I was there at the edge of Never,
of Once Been, bearing the night’s hide
 

            stretched across the night sky,
awake with myself disappointing myself,
 

            armed, legged & torsoed in the bed,
my head occupied by enemy forces,
 

            mind not lost entire, but wandering
off the marked path ill-advisedly. This March
 

            Lucie upped and died, and the funny show
of her smoky-throated world began to fade. 
 

            I didn’t know how much of me was made
by her, but now I know that this spooky art
 

            in which we staple a thing
to our best sketch of a thing was done
 

            under her direction, and here I am
at 4 AM, scratching a green pen over a notebook
 

             bound in red leather in October.
It’s too warm for a fire. She’d hate that.
 

             And the cats appear here only as apparitions
I glimpse sleeping in a chair, then
 

             Wohin bist du entschwunden? I wise up,
know their likenesses are only inked
 

             on my shoulder’s skin, their chipped ash poured
in twin cinerary jars downstairs. Gone
 

             is gone, said the goose to the shrunken boy
in the mean-spirited Swedish children’s book
 

             I love. I shouldn’t be writing this
at this age or any other. She mothered
 

             a part of me that needed that, lit
a spirit-lantern to spin shapes inside
 

             my obituary head, even though—
I’m nearly certain now—she’s dead.

More by Mark Wunderlich

Difficult Body

A story: There was a cow in the road, struck by a semi--
half-moon of carcass and jutting legs, eyes
already milky with dust and snow, rolled upward

as if tired of this world tilted on its side.
We drove through the pink light of the police cruiser,
her broken flank blowing steam in the air. 

Minutes later, a deer sprang onto the road
and we hit her, crushed her pelvis--the drama reversed,
first consequence, then action--but the doe,

not dead, pulled herself with front legs
into the ditch. My father went to her, stunned her
with a tire iron before cutting her throat, and today I think

of the body of St. Francis in the Arizona desert,
carved from wood and laid in his casket,
lovingly dressed in red and white satin

covered in petitions--medals, locks of hair,
photos of infants, his head lifted and stroked,
the grain of his brow kissed by the penitent.

O wooden saint, dry body. I will not be like you,
carapace. A chalky shell scooped of its life. 
I will leave less than this behind me.

Winter Study

Two days of snow, then ice
and the deer peer from the ragged curtain of trees.

Hunger wills them, hunger
pulls them to the compass of light

spilling from the farmyard pole.
They dip their heads, hold

forked hooves
above snow, turn furred ears

to scoop from the wind
the sounds of hounds, or men.

They lap at a sprinkling of grain,
pull timid mouthfuls from a stray bale.

The smallest is lame, with a leg
healed at angles, and a fused knob

where a joint once bent.
It picks, stiff, skidding its sickening limb

across the ice's dark platter.
Their fear is thick as they break a trail

to the center of their predator's range.
To know the winter

is to ginger forth from a bed in the pines,
to search for a scant meal

gleaned from the carelessness
of a killer.

Prayer for a Birthday


My privilege and my proof, pressing your eternal skin to mine—
I feel your fingers touching down on the crown of my head 

where I pray they remain during this life and in the next.  
The intricacies of your world astound me.

You flickered through the rooms where my mother dwelt,
when I was naked and formless as a seal, sensitive 

to the tides of her body.  I did not come too early onto land, 
did not emerge until my days were written

on the translucent pages of your enormous book.
The great lid of your eye peeled back to see I was not yet whole.

I remember today the day of my birth.
Your words washed that which clung to me from the other side, 

bound to me the promised ghost.  
I was dipped and sponged, cut free, 

delivered as I was like a lamb lodged in his dam.  Tears and pain
were her price, and I was handed over to be wiped with straw.  

You built me, bone by bone, counting
the hairs that would one day thatch my crown,

building cleverness in my hands, weakness in my knees, 
a squint and a taste for cake.  You showed me 

the dip of a man’s clavicle, arrow of ankle and calf, 
weaving in me a love of those bodies like my own, 

yet not mine.  When you turned to your next task
a shadow crossed the room stirred from the muddy banks 

rimed with ice.  In the spot where my skull was soft
it set down its stylus and inked a bruise—

a scrap used to blot a leaking pen.  Since then
my mind has raced toward the brink, spun

and knit and torn out the same silvery threads
only to wind them up again.  Still, the bargain

you made without my consent has left me 
here to ponder your airy limbs striding through the sky,

the red rustle of your gown.  A season ago, I looked out upon the verdure
of the small meadow below the house—boggy in parts—

the pollard willows gnarling and sipping from gnat-speckled pools,
the turkeys scratching under the sweep of green

as it prepared to die back for another year, littered with mute papery tongues.
You are easier to see when you denude your world with decay.  

And so I saw you there, flashed in the shallow water,
parting the curtain of the willow fronds and warming my face with light.

My mother and father call me and sing,
sweet and tuneless, their voices worn down by your turning wheel.

You have kept us together for half a man’s natural years,
these last the tenderest as their bodies 

break and their minds dip deeper into dust
to bring forth the features of distance.

My day will be spent here, in the middle of things, 
feeding split logs into the stove, cats coiling through rooms

as the snow ticks at the windows’ double panes.
I will read a book with snow at its center,

in a forest lost inside a forest in the north, the sun
an afterthought in the darkest days of the year.

I am thankful for all that buffers me from the cold,
all that binds me to my clan, 

though I see a future strange and tuneless
as I push forward into the mind’s blinding field of white.

Related Poems

Domestic Mysticism

In thrice 10,000 seasons, I will come back to this world
In a white cotton dress. Kingdom of After My Own Heart.
Kingdom of Fragile. Kingdom of Dwarves. When I come home,
Teacups will quiver in their Dresden saucers, pentatonic chimes
Will move in wind. A covey of alley cats will swarm on the side
Porch & perch there, portents with quickened heartbeats
You will feel against your ankles as you pass through.

After the first millennium, we were supposed to die out.
You had your face pressed up against the coarse dyed velvet
Of the curtain, always looking out for your own transmigration:
What colors you would wear, what cut of jewel,
What kind of pageantry, if your legs would be tied
Down, if there would be wandering tribes of minstrels
Following with woodwinds in your wake.

This work of mine, the kind of work which takes no arms to do,
Is least noble of all. It's peopled by Wizards, the Forlorn,
The Awkward, the Blinkers, the Spoon-Fingered, Agnostic Lispers,
Stutterers of Prayer, the Flatulent, the Closet Weepers,
The Charlatans. I am one of those. In January, the month the owls
Nest in, I am a witness & a small thing altogether. The Kingdom
Of Ingratitude. Kingdom of Lies. Kingdom of How Dare I.

I go on dropping words like little pink fish eggs, unawares, slightly
Illiterate, often on the mark. Waiting for the clear whoosh
Of fluid to descend & cover them. A train like a silver 
Russian love pill for the sick at heart passes by
My bedroom window in the night at the speed of mirage.
In the next millenium, I will be middle aged. I do not do well
In the marrow of things. Kingdom of Trick. Kingdom of Drug.

In a lung-shaped suburb of Virginia, my sister will be childless
Inside the ice storm, forcing the narcissus. We will send
Each other valentines. The radio blowing out
Vaughan Williams on the highway's purple moor.
At nine o'clock, we will put away our sewing to speak
Of lofty things while, in the pantry, little plants will nudge
Their frail tips toward the light we made last century.

When I come home, the dwarves will be long
In their shadows & promiscuous. The alley cats will sneak
Inside, curl about the legs of furniture, close the skins
Inside their eyelids, sleep. Orchids will be intercrossed & sturdy.
The sun will go down as I sit, thin armed, small breasted
In my cotton dress, poked with eyelet stitches, a little lace,
In the queer light left when a room snuffs out.

I draw a bath, enter the water as a god enters water:
Fertile, knowing, kind, surrounded by glass objects
Which could break easily if mishandled or ill-touched.
Everyone knows an unworshipped woman will betray you.
There is always that promise, I like that. Kingdom of Kinesis.
Kingdom of Benevolent. I will betray as a god betrays,
With tenderheartedness. I've got this mystic streak in me.

We Manage Most When We Manage Small

What things are steadfast? Not the birds.
Not the bride and groom who hurry
in their brevity to reach one another.
The stars do not blow away as we do.
The heavenly things ignite and freeze.
But not as my hair falls before you.
Fragile and momentary, we continue.
Fearing madness in all things huge
and their requiring. Managing as thin light
on water. Managing only greetings
and farewells. We love a little, as the mice
huddle, as the goat leans against my hand.
As the lovers quickening, riding time.
Making safety in the moment. This touching
home goes far. This fishing in the air.

Tomb in Three Parts

I remove my heart from its marble casing and grind that shell into glass dust and force the dust and the occupational core into a box barely big enough to hold them and watch while the self-sealing lid sets itself. I then take the contraption to a place to which I doubt I will ever find my way back, even if I wanted to which I don’t. I have zero desire for what has been buried after having been done with like that one that was once. With such rigor and exactitude does the end come and more than once, which is a way of making a statement about the infinite duplicity of a suffocating blanket.