Landscape with a Hundred Turns

When you turned into a hundred rooms,
I returned each month as a door
that opened only one.

When you turned into a hundred rooms
the wind flung through
each of them wailing

and left a hundred songs
in hopes you would return for it
and me and

once, finding a doe locked up,
the trees blued up
the mountain pass, I understood

you had transformed into your multiple,
as the rain is different
each step from the moon. Sleeping

in a hundred rooms, a hundred dreams
of you appear—though by day
your voice has frozen into standing stones.

When you turned into a hundred rooms,
I met with a mirror in each eye
your growing absence.

When I moved, the shadows without you
followed me. In the hundred rooms,
I cannot pick one,

for each combines into the other
where I piece-by-piece the shadows
you have ceased

to remember. As the rain
is different each day of the year,
when I turned for you

and hoped you’d return to me,
was it I who left
and you who remained the same?

For when you changed,
I changed
the furniture in the rooms.

A hundred birds flew over a hundred fields.
A mountain flowed into a hundred rivers
then ended.

In a hundred rooms,
I turned and turned,
hoping to return to you.

O, the chrysanthemums grew
in the hundred rooms!

Far in the past and far in the future
were those numinous and echoing stars.

Related Poems

from Notes on the Shape of Absence

We trace the dust lines left behind from the appliances, fumble for the brick foundations between the steel beams, peer at serrated stairlines where the wall paints stopped. Reincarnated. Tenement apartments become dance spaces without barres or mirrors, in the dank basement of a bank on Market Street, in anonymous green-carpeted rooms on Mott Street.

Inheritance

We drank hard water.
Spoke in plain language.

Said what we didn't

with a joke or a look.
One went missing—

let silence drill its hole.
A second fell ill.

We cloaked our mirrors.
Slashed a red X

on the door to our house.
Pass over us, I asked

the raven sky,
or burn in me

a second mouth.

Rooms Remembered

I needed, for months after he died, to remember our rooms—
            some lit by the trivial, others ample

with an obscurity that comforted us: it hid our own darkness.
            So for months, duteous, I remembered:

rooms where friends lingered, rooms with our beds,
            with our books, rooms with curtains I sewed

from bright cottons. I remembered tables of laughter,
            a chipped bowl in early light, black

branches by a window, bowing toward night, & those rooms,
            too, in which we came together

to be away from all. And sometimes from ourselves:
            I remembered that, also.

But tonight—as I stand in the doorway to his room
            & stare at dusk settled there—

what I remember best is how, to throw my arms around his neck,
            I needed to stand on the tip of my toes.