Unto Ourselves: to See What’s There

To see what’s there and not already
patterned by familiarity— for an unpredicted
whole is there, casting a pair of shadows, manipulating
its material, advancing, assembling enough
kinship that we call it life, our life, what
is already many lives, the dimensions of
its magnitude veiled to us as we live it––

Across the cytoplasm of adjacent cells
goes a signal that turns you toward me, turns
me into you. We are coupled in quiet
tumult, convergent arguments, an alien
rhythm becoming familiar. A rhythm
of I am here, never to be peeled away.
We are become one thing

or what’s there and not. Through the storm,
neem trees on the hill stamp wildly
in their roots. We have passed through
the spring, but what thing has passed
through us? Now your laughter
transparentizes me. And whose sense
of the self doesn’t swerve? Your unconditional
foreignness grows conditional, stops
being foreign at all. With your nearness,
my lens on the world shifts. A peristaltic
contraction courses through us as a single
wave. No longer can we keep our distance.
Our lips brush, or the tips of ourselves.

But what language are you whispering to me
your teeth stained by nilgiri tea, above the trills
and whistles in the high limbs, above the screech
of a bulldozer blade shoving rubble
up the wounded street, above the silence
of an eyeless tick climbing a grass stem? I understand
nothing but the lust your voice incites, the
declamatory tenderness. How, and who can say
what force has cued up this hour for our
small voices to merge into a carnality
that did not exist before now.

Having come to this unforeseen
conjunction, we slip
into one another, we take hold
in a pulse of heat, —in a yes and no—
for already we can see
we are no longer what we were

as I find you within me—not fused, not
bonded, but nested. And for you, is it
the same?—the intensity of such
investment, each of us excited
by the volatility of the other which
propels us in a rush as something,
perhaps our lips brush or
the tips of ourselves, stripping
away what?—what was before? Was there
even anything before?

The reconfiguration is instantaneous
experience. It is being
itself. But whose being now? Was I
endowed with some special pliability so
that becoming part of you I didn’t pass
through my own nihilation? And what
does the death of who-you-were mean to me
except that now you are present, constantly.


Because excess is what it took
for us to transform, to effulge. You cast
your life beyond itself. Can’t you sense me
within your ecstatic openness
like rain mingling with red earth?
Without you I survived and with you
I live again in a radical augmentation
of identity because we have
effaced our outer limits, because
we summoned each other. In you,
I cast my life beyond itself.

From Twice Alive (New Directions, 2021) by Forrest Gander. Copyright © 2021 by Forrest Gander. Used with the permission of the poet.