You sit at a window and listen to your father
crossing the dark grasses of the fields
toward you, a moon soaking through his shoes as he shuffles the wind
aside, the night in his hands like an empty bridle.
How long have we been this way, you ask him.
It must be ages, the wind answers. It must be the music of the wind
turning your fingers to glass, turning the furniture of childhood
to the colors of horses, turning them away.
Your father is still crossing the acres, a light on his tongue
like a small coin from an empire that has always been ruined.
Now the dark flocks are drifting through his shoulders
with an odor of lavender, an odor of gold. Now he has turned
as though to go, but only knelt down with the heavy oars
of October on his forearms, to begin the horrible rowing.
You sit in a chair in the room. The wind lies open
on your lap like the score of a life you did not measure.
You rise. You turn back to the room and repeat what you know:
The earth is not a home. The night is not an empty bridle
in the hands of a man crossing a field with a new moon
in his old wool. We abandon the dead. We abandon them.
It’s true there were times when it was too much
and I slipped off in the first light or its last hour
and drove up through the crooked way of the valley
and swam out to those ruins on an island.
Blackbirds were the only music in the spruces,
and the stars, as they faded out, offered themselves to me
like glasses of water ringing by the empty linens of the dead.
When Delilah watched the dark hair of her lover
tumble, she did not shatter. When Abraham
relented, he did not relent.
Still, I would tell you of the humbling and the waking.
I would tell you of the wild hours of surrender,
when the river stripped the cove’s stones
from the margin and the blackbirds built
their strict songs in the high
pines, when the great nests swayed the lattice
of the branches, the moon’s brute music
touching them with fire.
And you, there, stranger in the sway
of it, what would you have done
there, in the ruins, when they rose
from you, when the burning wings
ascended, when the old ghosts
shook the music from your branches and the great lie
of your one sweet life was lifted?